AN OPPORTUNITY EMERGES:
PURCHASING THE RIVER CENTER PROPERTY
Timeline for Securing Adjacent Property, affectionately referred to as the River Center Property, which includes the parking lot, small shed and buildings #44 and #46
In March of 2015, the Executive Director of the River Center, Margaret Nelson, is invited to the Outreach Meeting of All Saints’ to discuss ways we could collaborate. “Farm to Table” a program sponsored by the River Center had great organization but no convenient place to meet. We offered Reynolds Hall and its kitchen for its weekly meeting. Margaret also asked if we could help with their major fund raising event of the year, “The Spelling Bee” by providing the food (heavy appetizers), set up and clean up. Over 20 members of the church volunteered and River Center had their most successful fund raiser. A stronger relationship is beginning to emerge between River Center and All Saints’.
At the September 2015 Monadnock Rotary Meeting, Margaret Nelson presents the mission of the River Center to the Rotarians and mentions, “hot off the press” that the members of the Board of River Center had voted just the night before to put their property on the market. Jamie is at the meeting and her first thought is “there goes our parking!”
October 16, 2015 the property is put on the market for $375,000
During late October an early November, informal discussions begin with members of the town hall offices re ordinances regarding subdivision
At the vestry meeting of November 17, 2015, the vestry votes unanimously to create a task force to look at the option of buying this adjacent property, since we use it regularly for parking. Task Force is created: Pam Everson, Deb DeCicco, John Catlin, Phil Miner, Rod Falby, Jack Lewis, Paul Freeman, Christy Meinke, Andy Peterson as consultant realtor.
At the vestry meeting of December 13, 2015, Andy Peterson reports re the Task Force recommends to continue to pursue purchase: toured buildings, in conversation with broker Massiello, price set high based on taxes, we can offer lower offer and still be a fair price, buildings not in great shape (55 years old), not historical buildings, renters and sub-renters are using parts of the buildings but their leases will be voided with a sale, new zoning laws favorable to subdivision, will be possible to subdivide parking lot from two buildings and sell the buildings, so that we could have the parking that we need without the overhead of maintaining the buildings.
Discussion ensued: focus on the value of investing money for the future of the church vs. the immediate expense. Motion was made to authorize the leadership of the church to negotiate the purchase agreement of 250,000.00 subject to approval of legal counsel (Si Little), vestry and Standing Committee of the Diocese. 7 voted in favor with 2 abstentions.
January 12, 2016, Jamie, Greg, and Andy meet with members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese for approval in our pursuit to buy the adjacent property. For financing the purchase, we propose to take out a $200,000 loan plus borrow $100,000 from our own endowment. The members of the Standing Committee are supportive, citing the Alban Institute findings that parking is critical for churches to survive, and that we are not putting ourselves at financial risk with the loan. We are given the green light to proceed.
All through early January, negotiations go back and forth between the River Center and All Saints’ and we agree to $260,000 price.
At the vestry meeting of January 19, 2016, Andy reports that the contract to purchase RC at 260,000 was signed, with $1,000 down, with legal details to be finalized by lawyers for both parties, with 45 days post signing for inspections, insurance implications, surveys, subdivision possibilities, continued support from the diocese, etc. All members of the vestry felt that in the end, we really didn’t have another choice. We were not buying a parking lot; only securing the one we have used for the past 50 years (for free!)
At the Annual Meeting, January 31, 2016, more than 100 parishioners attended with the focus of the meeting spent on the discussion of purchasing the property. Parishioners were in favor of securing the parking lot. Many voiced their thanks in the thoroughness of deliberations (creating a task force, exploring other options for parking, working with the city zoning laws, obtaining legal counsel, sensitivities to River Center’s vulnerability in their move, etc).
Guardian Inspection Services hired February 3, 2016 to inspect both buildings. Research environmental concerns through Eastview Environmental; findings that the “property is in acceptable environmental condition and there are no recommendations for further study.”
At the vestry meeting of February 24, 2016, the vestry was informed that an additional $9,000 would be needed on the P and S agreement, as we got closer to finishing our due diligence. Discussion of the possible need for a “capital campaign” to fund the property as well as other dreams ASC has with furthering ministries pursued.
After the Vestry Retreat of March 19, 2016, the vestry voted unanimously to approve $9,000, making our deposit a total of $10,000, nonrefundable, barring an unusual circumstance (e.g problems with financing). In essence, this indicated that we were satisfied with our due diligence and committed to move forward with the purchase. The vestry also voted to hire Andy as our broker for the purpose of selling the two buildings (after subdividing and creating any easements necessary) for the purpose of shortening any time of ASC ownership of buildings. The surveyors’ report was also just finishing her work, with a report soon to follow.
Bank Loan for $200,000 signed with Lake Sunapee Bank, April 7, 2016
In early April, the wardens decided that we needed to focus on our next phase of discernment and not rush into selling. Among the possibilities (and there may be others) are:
Subdivide the property into three lots (per new Peterborough downtown zoning): the parking lot; the large building; and the smaller building. This can be done no matter what else we choose to do.
Sell one or both of the lots with buildings on them (in “as is” condition), to become private residences or a not-for-profit organization.
Keep one or both buildings - either to use for church purposes, or to rent.
Demolish one/both buildings, replacing one or both with other structure(s) to use for church-related purposes.
Demolish one/both buildings, replacing one or both with landscaping (and/or more parking).
A number of factors in this part of discernment – financial, aesthetic, the projected growth of the church, our bandwidth, the mission of the church today and in the future, fundraising, capital campaign, etc. And timing: how urgently any of these decisions has to be made.
The vote to put the buildings on the market was set aside for the time being, in order to discern more thoroughly possible use of buildings, approved unanimously.
At the vestry meeting of April 13, Jamie and Phil report that they spoke with Leslie Pendleton of the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) to speak about what would be involved in a possible capital campaign.
Then discussion ensued: Each member of the vestry shared his/her thinking for about a minute (no comments until everyone had shared what they were thinking about the above possibilities). Once all spoke individually, opened to full table discussion; after 30-40 minutes checked in to see if any motions. Clear to be in the process of discerning our direction, gathering information, revealing what we need to know to move forward, etc.
Phase #1 of Discernment was whether to buy the property or not, intentionally putting aside temporarily the question of what we would do with the property once we own it. Now Phase #2 needed to begin, since we were closing May 31. Gathering more information, speaking with the diocese about the two buildings, discerning whether could we use them, what would it take to move forward. An additional meeting was set for April 27.
At the vestry meetings of April 27 and May 11 the vestry discussed the possible use of the buildings for the church. Jamie had spoken with the Bishop and any possible uses for the diocese, child care, afterschool programs, affordable housing, etc. We could keep the buildings, draining both of water and heat to reduce covering costs while we discerned. Meanwhile not for profit agencies have been looking at possibly buying #46 but most are declining interests- too much deferred maintenance. No buyers interested. Parishioner offered to cover costs to have Doug Walker do an energy audit. John also suggested we could write for Requests for Proposals RFP (social, economic) to see what could be for possible use.
May 31, Closing. Present: Si Little, legal counsel, Paul Faber, bank loan officer, members of All Saints’: Jamie Hamilton, Phil Suter, Greg Naudascher, Christy Meinke, Andy Peterson (realtor), members of River Center: Margaret Nelson, Executive Director, Franklin Sterling, President of the Board
At the vestry meeting of June 8 (we own the property), the vestry made plans to take over contracts (security, oil, water, electricity). RC will be moved out by June 30. Next steps include discussion with Conservation Commission, and eventual hearing with Planning Board.
Margaret Nelson writes article in July’s Messenger about how pleased she is to be in their new building and how supported she felt by All Saints’ in the sale of their buildings and in their move.
During July the vestry discussed seven different scenarios (developed from conversations had in April)
At the vestry meeting of September 14, decision was made to put both buildings on the market to test possible interest. $149,500 for #46 and $59,000 for #44. Should no purchase agreement be obtained, the properties will be taken off the market and winterized. Properties possible placed back on the market in spring of 2017, and if no purchase obtained, the option of demolition of properties will be considered. Task Force to be reengaged.
At the vestry meeting of October 12, discussion ensued about the issue of control. If buildings sell, no control of the property. Discussion about the possibility of a capital campaign and the future of the church rather than paying off the loan with the selling of the buildings. Decide to have special meeting November 9 to engage Task Force and members of the parish for discussion.
At the vestry meeting of November 16: Open Discussion with Andy about 3 offers.
For #46 – A nonprofit to house an animal shelter rescue ; has been housed in Jaffrey; a 5013C; pay $100K down; take out a 5 year loan with us for the remaining $25,000. (details in PSA #1). Organization not open on Sundays, have few parking needs, and have volunteers to take care of the cats. They need 4000 sq. feet. We would have the right of first refusal in the future to buy back if they wanted to sell
For #44 - Purchaser is young woman; (details in PSA #2); we need to remove the fire alarm system; offered cash; $65K. She would live there alone.
Another verbal offer came in today from a builder who gave an offer “in the 50s” for #44. He wants to raze it and rebuild on the foundation. Nothing in writing yet.
MATS people expressed interest (Hope Pettigrew), but not moving forward. Building needs too much work, near the river, complicated with zoning, etc. Jamie also spoke to Hope Taylor representing the Contoocook Valley Housing Trust, affordable housing. This is not going to move forward either. Too many complications around financing.
For both #44 and 46 – A Contractor who rehabs properties (PSA #3) to buy both buildings and make condos. Cash offer: $190K for both buildings.
Vestry spoke first about positive points for each proposal. Then spoke about concerns for each proposal. Major points
No interest in pursuing the building of condominiums; though practical, much worry about future use and neighbors. Once they buildings are condominiums property no longer under our control
Phil will talk/email to President of the board for the nonprofit and ask about our concerns.
Unanimous decision to accept the offer for #44; Phil will talk with her about the complications of zoning, timing, demolition of sheds, etc to see if still interested.
At the vestry follow up meeting on November 28, Phil reported back with nonprofit- very transparent about their needs- lease ending in Jaffrey, needed new place immediately and willing to put all of the money raised up to this point ($100,000) to buy building which wouldn’t leave much for upkeep; cats needed outdoor space or bars on windows, dumpster smell would be strong, but manageable; leasing would be a possibility. Conversation ensued and vestry unanimously voted not to sell/lease building to animal shelter.
John Catlin showed drawings of 3 possible scenarios for what to present to the town zoning- should we present all three to the town? After much conversation, focusing on capital campaign, the aesthetics of our campus and the safety of parishioners walking to and from parking lot, need for control, the lack of 501.c3 organizations who could buy buildings that need so much work, the possible sell of #44 which could launch a capital campaign.
Moved to sell #44 with new P/S, outlining timing issues around zoning and rights of first refusal if #44 was put on the market again; this passed unanimously.
Moved to demolish #46 (simplifying what plans are presented re the town ordinances); this passed unanimously.
Final motion to engage Leslie Pendleton to as a consultant on the Capital Campaign. Unanimously passed.