Richmond's Nonprofits Seek Communal Offices 

A coalition of Richmond nonprofits — including the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the United Way, Richmond Renaissance, the Performing Arts Alliance, the Better Business Bureau and Junior Achievement of Central Virginia — is close to deciding if there's a building downtown that could become a home for all of them to share.

Many have outgrown their current locations and have similar needs for space, says Chamber President Jim Dunn, who's spearheading the effort. "Our core community-development organizations already work closely together, and I think we work well together," he says.

Sherrie L. Brach, president of the United Way, says she likes the idea because it would encourage leaders to strategize together, and also because her organization already shares volunteers and board members with other nonprofits.

A communal headquarters would save money and speed communication between groups that already work on many of the same projects, Dunn adds.

The big question is: where?

About a year ago, the group of organizations created a task force to scout out buildings that would fit their requirements: about 80,000 square feet, parking for 300 employees and common areas — meeting rooms, auditoriums, training rooms — to share.

A request for proposals from the real estate community turned up six or seven possibilities, Dunn says, which were reviewed this summer. In September, he says, a negotiating team met with the owners of three buildings that could meet all the group's requirements.

Dunn says he can't reveal which properties are being considered. However, a source familiar with the nonprofits' plan says some possibilities are the Central National Bank Building at 219 E. Broad St., a historic building owned by civic activist Jim Ukrop and developer Lou Salomonsky; the Whitestone Plaza at 8th and Main streets; and the Bank of America building at 1111 E. Grace St.

"We're hoping, within the next several weeks, that [the team] will be able to conclude their work and come back to the participating organizations," Dunn says. If at least one building fits the bill, they'll bring the proposal to each nonprofit for a formal review.

The Richmond plan was inspired by a similar situation in Pittsburgh, Dunn says, where Alcoa donated its former headquarters tower to serve as a home for nonprofits. —


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