Success saving ‘nonprofit row’ near Central could be replicated across city by CRA, CCF
The purchase of the “nonprofit row” building near Central Square is complete, according to a Thursday announcement, saving 11 nonprofit agencies from being displaced, and potentially marking just the start of similar efforts citywide.
Though the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is the buyer and owner of the 93-99 Bishop Allen Drive building, where it plans $2 million in improvements and will guarantee continued below-market rents, it was the Cambridge Community Foundation – a tenant – that made the deal possible: In the fall of 2018, the foundation asked the owner, the Enroot education nonprofit, to delay a sale long enough that tenants could explore solutions and then, according to a Thursday press release, approached the redevelopment authority for help.
Now, with “Nonprofit Row” saved, the CRA and Foundation plan to continue the work as partners “to address the growing crisis in affordable office space for agencies serving the local community,” according to the foundation.
The building will become what’s called a “nonprofit center,” and the partners will look for other places citywide to create more, they said.
The CRA will solicit feedback from nonprofit organizations citywide to identify which programs and shared space benefits a new nonprofit center could provide for them, then “build on the legacy initiated by Enroot’s sale of their building [to] protect affordable office space for the public good.”
Roughly a year of work is planned at “Nonprofit Row,” including installation of a new elevator, bathrooms remade to be compliant with the American Disabilities Act, upgrades to the heating and air condition system, fire safety improvements and the development or improvement of shared amenities such as a meeting room.
Then, according to the Thursday press release:
Longer-term plans will focus on converting the building into a nonprofit center, a growing trend that allows nonprofits to benefit from economies of scale and shared space to lower costs and gain valuable connections with other agencies in their field. According to the Nonprofit Centers Network, as of mid-2018 there were more than 475 nonprofit centers across the United States and Canada, with an additional 230 in development or exploration. A 2011 study found that nonprofit centers result in both increased effectiveness and efficiency for nonprofits, as well as reducing the burden on often tightly stretched budgets. Organizations located in nonprofit center saw an average cost savings of 7 percent of their annual operating costs.
In June, when a purchase and sale agreement was in place, an appraisal and financial analysis by real estate consultants put the estimated value of the 93-99 Bishop Allen Drive property at $8.8 million.