In Debt, Flagler Chamber of Commerce Seeking to Sell Building But Stay Put as Tenant
FlaglerLive | July 12, 2016
As debts have caught up with the organization, members of the Flagler Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates this afternoon learned that the chamber is seeking to sell the 10,000 square foot building it has owned, occupied and leased to other tenants since 2006.
The sale of the building at 20 Airport Road in Palm Coast–just off State Road 100, near the county airport–preferably to an investor, is intended to pay off debts incurred by the publication of its annual phone book and create a reserve fund, Chamber President Rebecca DeLorenzo said this afternoon in an interview just before the meeting with members at the Hilton garden Inn. The 54-year-old chamber, however, is not moving shop or closing. Today’s membership meeting was intended to “dispel the rumors we’re going bankrupt,” DeLorenzo said. “We’re not going bankrupt.”
The phone book has been an albatross around the chamber’s neck for a few years. In a 2015 planning session, the chamber’s board of directors elected to make 2016 the last year it would issue the book, which cost $50,000 to publish. With that last publication, the chamber fell $40,000 short, as customers were already aware that it would be the last volume, accelerating a migration away from such print products and toward the web and direct mail. DeLorenzo did not disclose the chamber’s total debt.
The chamber board then analyzed its financial condition and decided it was time to put the building up for sale. “Our goal is to sell it to an investor and maintain our position at the chamber,” DeLorenzo said. The alternative is not as clear. “As of right now we plan to pay debt on a monthly basis, with the bank that held the note on the building, we plan to pay that down,” DeLorenzo said. “We’ll work through it.”
The chamber bought the 11,000 square-foot property in 2005 for $145,900. The county property appraiser places the building’s current value at $908,000 and the land value at $278,000 for a total just market value of just over $1.2 million. Almost $900,000 of that is exempt from taxes, however. The chamber just lost one of its tenants: the county’s tourism office, which paid around $22,000 a year in rent for 1,000 square feet of office space in one of the suites. The tourism office is moving to a building on the county’s airport property, just behind the chamber’s building, for more space (and about $33,000 a year in rent).
Career Source, the employment agency, occupies 2,500 square feet, Office Divvy, the business incubator and co-work location, occupies 900 square feet (what used to be the chamber’s community room), and Politis and Matovina, the law firm, occupies another suite. The law firm is at the end of a five-year lease. It is negotiating a renewal with the chamber.
DeLorenzo has been president of the chamber since early 2013, following the somewhat more caustic tenure of Doug Baxter. Asked about her position now, she said: “I feel pretty secure in my position, the board of directors hasn’t told me otherwise.” There has been some turnover at the chamber, starting with what turned into the high-profile firing of Heather Thompson a year ago. She was the membership director. The event director position turned over at the end of June, and the front-desk membership services coordinator position was eliminated.
The chamber is down to six employees today, from twice that number before the economy soured. Membership is down to about 750, from around 800 members a year ago.
Preparing to put the building up for sale, the chamber put out a request for proposals to real estate brokers, interviewed them, and settled on Margaret Sheehan-Jones, the commercial broker with a number of recent, successful closings to her credit. The property will be for sale but off market for 30 days, DeLorenzo said, as it is shopped among likely interested investors. If nothing bites, the property may then be listed.
[This is a developing story., More details soon.]