Mason Square could lose community center

Dunbar is struggling to pay off a million dollar loan

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Dunbar Community Center is in financial trouble and that means the programs families have come to rely on are in trouble as well.

The Dunbar Community Center has been called a “safe haven” for Springfield’s Mason Square neighborhood. It’s where the YMCA of Greater Springfield provides services for the community, but the Y’s CEO Kirk Smith says that could soon change when the property is auctioned off later this year.

“If Dunbar closes we’re talking about, I would say, catastrophic consequences for this community,” Smith said. Dunbar is struggling to pay off a million dollar loan that funded an addition onto their building in 2000.

Smith says Dunbar has been unable to negotiate a payment plan with the bank. “There is really no willingness on their part to really discount the mortgage at all, they want closer to a million that is due,” Smith added.

The property is in foreclosure and will go to auction sometime this year, which means the Y may have to go. The Y says if they are forced to leave they’d be able to continue operations in other buildings in the community but there’s a really good chance there wouldn’t be a fitness center or a gym which they say is a critical element to getting kids and families in the door.

Aerobics instructor Tracey Thomas said it would be hard to do what they do anywhere else. “It actually brought me to tears. I want to be here, we want to stay here, this is where all this belongs, in this building,” Thomas said.

Thirty-five hundred people use the center’s services, many of them are kids looking to stay off the streets.

To be clear, it’s Dunbar Inc. that owes the money, not the YMCA. No auction date has been set, but they expect to hear something next month.

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