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Saved by the bell 

Once in danger of closing, the Lakewood YMCA will become a Montessori Middle School, pending final negotiations among Durham County Commissioners, school board and the YMCA of the Triangle.

Durham County will buy the 57,000-square-foot YMCA for $250,000 and transfer the property to Durham Public Schools. The renovation is estimated at $8 million.

The YMCA will lease back from the county 18,000 square feet of the property, invest an additional $800,000 in renovations and retain some existing programming. The proposed lease term is 15 years.

The Durham Board of Education is scheduled to consider the finer points of the deal at its May 22 meeting. That proposal will come back to the County Commission for approval.

"This is a truly winning situation," said Commissioner Lewis Cheek. "There was tremendous concern in the neighborhood about what would happen to it."

A year ago, the Raleigh-based YMCA of the Triangle announced plans to close the 41-year-old Lakewood branch on Chapel Hill Road in the face of declining membership and the need for extensive renovations. The Triangle YMCA was also shifting its focus to the downtown and American Tobacco branches.

A grassroots citizens group, the Committee to Save the Lakewood Y, rallied support among Durham neighborhoods and nonprofit groups to keep the branch open. It is considered an anchor of one of Durham’s inner-city neighborhoods.

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