Historic Partnership With UH Builds On YMCA Atherton’s History

A woman walking in front of the Charles Atherton House

The University of Hawaiʻi and UH Foundation have signed an $8 million agreement with the YMCA of Honolulu for the buildings and property that comprise its Atherton YMCA Branch. It is anticipated that the sale will close in early 2017. The UH Foundation plans to spend up to $5 million on renovations and upgrades. The property consists of two buildings, the Charles Atherton House and Mary Atherton Richards House, for a combined building area of over 34,600 square feet situated on approximately 43,107 square feet of fee simple land.

Donna Vuchinich, UH Foundation president and CEO said, “The University of Hawaiʻi Foundation has a proud 60 year history of supporting the University of Hawaiʻi by raising private philanthropic support. As state funding for universities across the nation diminishes, public universities’ institutionally related foundations are embracing a range of public-private efforts to increase resources for their universities. From commercializing intellectual property to real estate development, entities like the UH Foundation are playing a larger role in the support of higher education.”

Vuchinich continued, “When the Atherton YMCA building went on the market, UH leadership, the YMCA and our board recognized the value this historic building has for UH, its students and our community. Today, we are pleased to announce our first real estate venture in the UH Foundation’s purchase and renovation of the Atherton YMCA property.”

UH Foundation Board of Trustees Chair T. Michael May added, “This project is the first in what we expect to be a part of our strategic direction of developing property and projects to benefit the university’s facility needs and provide new sources of income. We see much potential in the endeavor and have benefitted from consulting with other institutions to gain better knowledge and experience.”

As part of the 3-way transaction, the Atherton YMCA and staff will be provided space, at minimal cost for 20 years in the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services building on the UH Mānoa campus to support the continuation and expansion of the YMCA of Honolulu’s programs.

Through a lease agreement containing an option to purchase that was approved by the UH Board of Regents, the University will initially lease the Atherton property from the UH Foundation. During the transition period, UH will continue to provide space for the YMCA on the existing Atherton property for a period of one year until the programs move onto campus.

UH President and interim UH Mānoa Chancellor David Lassner added, “We are very excited about this strategic and rare opportunity to acquire a significant historic property adjacent to our landlocked campus and improve our affordable student housing portfolio. The Atherton property is an important part of UH’s history and so is our fruitful 100-year relationship with the YMCA. We are grateful to the UH Foundation for enabling this purchase and supporting our continuing relationship with the Y.”

“Having a location on the Mānoa campus will allow the continuation and expansion of the Atherton YMCA’s programs and mission work focused on youth development, leadership and community service,” said Michael Broderick, president and CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu. “This was an important factor in our decision to accept the offer from the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation.”

In continuing to meet the changing needs of our community, Atherton YMCA programs have expanded to support not only college students, but also high school students throughout our State through programs such as the YMCA College Camp, which provides resources and motivation for teens in low-income communities to pursue higher education goals.

The history of the Atherton YMCA property

The bulk of the original Atherton YMCA property was purchased by the YMCA of Honolulu, then known as the University YMCA, in 1921. The Atherton, Castle and Baldwin families each donated $2,500 towards the purchase of the land.

By the end of the 1920s, the YMCA of Honolulu held the current property today that fronts University Avenue, running from Seaview to Metcalf Streets.

In 1932, the Atherton Family contributed funds for the construction of a three-story cement building at 1810 University Avenue. Since the establishment of “The Pink Building” on the corner of University and Metcalf, students attending UH Mānoa have lived and flourished at the Atherton Y.

“The eventual acquisition of the Atherton Y property by UH so we can continue to provide low-cost student housing and enhance residential student life, is a natural progression in our collective histories. The University of Hawaiʻi is deeply committed to the vision of the Atherton Family and their legacy,” said Lassner.

“The partnership and transfer of the property to the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation will allow the Y to continue to support the youth of Hawaiʻi and their pursuit of education, careers and as future leaders of our community as well as to serve as a center for university YMCA activities and much more.” added Broderick.

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