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Case Studies and Resources

Inquiry on Ask-the-NCN

Alan Ziter, NTC Foundation, 2/16/16
As you know the NTC Foundation was established by the City of San Diego to transform 26 abandoned yet historic Navy buildings into a new Arts District.

In advance of my arrival in 2004 there were a number of studies that were done that may be beneficial to know about for this building that is planned to be transformed in Baltimore:

· Research Models attachment – the marketing study to determine what was needed in the community;
Examples of over 25 sites across the US that involved repurposing vacant buildings for various uses.

· Building Use Analysis – June 2001 – what uses in the community could the building address

· Asbestos Survey and Lead Paint Survey – especially beneficial for older buildings

· Preliminary Cost Estimate to renovate the building – need to determine if there are requirements for paying “living wage” or “prevailing wage” if you are using government funds as that will increase construction costs by as much as 30%. Also, need to determine occupancy loads in the existing space and what the new Occupancy Loads are needed to be as it may require the installation of more exits, including stairways.

Hope this is helpful.


Thaddeus Squire, CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia
You may want to check in with Karen DiLossi of Partners for Sacred Places, copied here, as well as Jason Friedland of Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners, two folks who have (or likely to have) case studies of the type you’re looking for.


Michelle Yawn, Winder Housing Authority, 2/16/16
We recently acquired a vacant middle school, which had been vacant for two years.


Brenda Wong, City of Edmonton, 2/16/16
Yes we are taking over a space which will be vacant in fall 2017 We are in the process of developing plans for that process.


Cheryl Spector, Spector Associates, 2/16/16
Our project, 910Arts was a transformation of blighted and vacant buildings, de-constructed to re-construct the mixed use facility we have now- 8 live-work lofts, 16 Studios, coffee shop/bistro and event venue/gallery, plus two non-profit galleries. Let me know what specific info would be helpful and I am happy to share it with you.


Mike Gilbert, The Jones Center, 2/16/16
Katie, the CFN @ St. Mary’s was abandoned and boarded up. There was a demolition contract on the desk of the CEO of the Mercy Hospital system. They gifted the building to us. It is home to 38 orgs and has an economic impact exceeding 25 million dollars.


John Powers, 2/17/16
Third Street Center, Carbondale, CO


China Brotsky, 2/17/16
The Thoreau Center was created in an abandoned Army building and, contrary to popular report, is still definitely functioning as a shared space.


Reid Henry, cSpace Projects, 2/17/16
We are repurposing a vacant 100 year sandstone school in Calgary, Canada for a multi-disciplinary arts and community hub – we purchased the vacant 3 acre site in 2012 and are mid-way through construction. The project has a few interesting features:

  • Located in a rapidly changing, inner city neighbourhood
  • Historic rehabilitation of a 42,000 s.f. listed building into non-profit office/program and artist studio space
  • LEED Gold (pushing for LEED platinum) – solar, rainwater retention, high efficiency systems
  • New build wing including a studio theatre, co-working space and social spaces
  • New public park and arts-infused gathering places
  • Two private sector developer partners building flats and seniors active living residences

I can forward the business plan on to you if you are interested in the project.


Marian A. Williams – Zan W. Holmes, Jr., Community Outreach Center
We did a vacant elementary school in Dallas, TX.


Doug Vilsack, Posner Center/Horse Barn, 2/17/16 –


Margie Zeidler, Urbanspace Property Group, 2/17/16
I would suggest Artscape Wychwood Barns here in Toronto. A project of Toronto Artscape.


Melissa Routley, Artscape
Several of Artscape’s Community Cultural Hubs are in formerly vacant or threatened properties – notably Artscape Wychwood Barns, Artscape Youngplace, Artscape Gibraltar Point and Artscape Distillery Studios. We have case studies of these properties and others in our portfolio at this link:


Dave Robinson, Fort Worden Public Development Authority, 2/18/16
Hi Katie,

We should also chime in here. The Fort Worden Public Development Authority (PDA) recently entered into a 50-year master lease to manage 90 acres (the Campus area) of a 432 acre State Park in rural western Washington (2 hour drive from Seattle). The Campus includes 73 historic buildings in a designated National Historic Landmark. There are 10 vacant buildings and several other buildings that are underutilized and in need of capital improvements—and ripe for housing new tenants. “Old buildings need new ideas” (Jane Jacobs).

Our mission is to manage the campus/conference center as a Lifelong Learning Center focused on arts, culture, recreational and educational uses. Within the campus there are 12 nonprofit partners—some with exclusive leases for buildings. We have over 400 beds for overnight visitors housed in a variety of overnight accommodations and 68,000 sq. feet of multi-purpose meeting rooms, two performance theaters, 500-seat dining hall, four museums, etc.

More information can be found on our website under About Fort Worden—look for plans and documents pertaining to the PDA.


Melanie Deas, Link Centre, 2/19/16
Link Centre was established in 2001 in a former church complex. I am happy to share any info you might find helpful.


Topics Below:

Meeting Room Set-up

Meeting Room Set-up


Ask-NCN 6/1/2017


Christine McCormick, 2506 LLC
Our nonprofit center, Community Partners Center, is located in Colmar, PA, about 45 minutes from Philadelphia. We have a large conference room that is used daily for our tenants and nonprofits. Our current provider for meeting rooms setups is no longer available as of 7/1/17. The tables are heavy and require two people to set them up. The meeting room has configurations like U shaped, classroom, groups and others. We are looking for other providers and/or tables that are easier to set up. Any ideas?


Shelby Bradbury, Sierra Health Foundation

We have lightweight rolling/folding tables and stackable chairs for our meeting rooms. The orgs are responsible for setting their meetings and resetting the room (to a standard hollow square configuration). They are easy to move around and they look nice. The electrical outlet is rarely ever used.
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Online Resource Center

NCN Webinar – All Access: Inclusive Design for Shared Spaces
NCN Webinar I Space for All: Inclusivity in Building Communities
Centre for Social Innovation’s Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimation Policy

Family Services Center of NY: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan 2019-2020

Glasser-Schoenbaum Human Services Center’s Board Statement Supporting Diversity/Black Lives Matter – June 2020

Topics Below

Promoting Inclusive Shared Spaces

See also Values Statements

Promoting Inclusiveness

From an Ask-NCN Conversation, 2/2/16


Katie Edwards, Nonprofit Centers Network
Hi NCN members,

Diversity, equity and inclusion are hot topics in the nonprofit sector, and it’s come up in several of my recent conversations around shared space. How are we trying to promote these principles in our spaces and make them welcoming to people from all walks of life?

I’m looking for examples of initiatives in your centers that intentionally bring in more people from socially diverse groups to use your spaces. I’m also interested in efforts that haven’t been so successful. Why do you think they failed? What could we do better? What resources do you need to make this happen?
Thanks for your feedback!


Pam Mauk, Together Center, 2/3/16
In some areas we have some results. We have programs directed at different groups:

  • A “cultural navigator program” assists immigrants and others speaking Spanish and languages of India (and at a partner location Russian and Chinese).
  • A senior program run by Indian Association of Western Washington is off our lobby.
  • Our Advocate office by the lobby has a program for domestic violence survivors run by a major agency supporting the Spanish-speaking.
  • We will soon have a Muslim Cultural Resource Center (information, referral and counseling) one day per week in our advocate office.

The staff members of these organizations participate in our campus meetings and social events.

A group that was designed to address needs of immigrants and refugees (ERIC) has operated as a network and discussion group for a decade, and come up with some good solutions, such as the cultural navigator program. It is now working to get its own IRS nonprofit status: in the meantime Together Center is its legal sponsor. Once relaunched, it hopes to advise widely to businesses, government and nonprofts on the issues you mention. I mention them because the loosely organized group has some impact, but did not greatly impact local nonprofits. We are hoping that a group invested in the cultural competency mission might have greater impact on us and the community (ours is a very diverse community in the area of immigration and language: over 1/3 speak another language in the largest nearby city). A suggestion is then to bring in an organization in some capacity that has this expertise and mission.


Angela Baldrige, The Plantory, 2/3/16
We believe that the best way to invite diversity in is to be diverse. So we intentionally build a diverse and inclusive community. We subsidize our membership with fundraising. When we realized prices were still too high for a lot of social justice activists, we began providing sponsorships for organizations that meet missing factors of diversity in our space, and then work with these orgs to connect them to opportunities to support their sustainability and continued use of our space. For example, we connect groups with free social media management, donors who sponsor their membership, and interns. We also have an advisory council that helps with our program development, and that group represents various factors of diversity including client bases served by our populations. We involve our members in developing programming. We have a values statement as part of our ethos, and it is shared with all members when they apply. We host panel discussions on controversial topics and feature people from various perspectives and micro and macro levels. And we facilitate regular community interactions that are fun to support the building of relationships. Our staff interacts intentionally with diverse community members in and outside of the center, taking walks, getting coffee, etc. to build the relationships that we believe make the difference in understanding each other. We also call on the experts in our center to advise us (we are home to groups that are experts and advocates in LGBTQ issues, violence, education, access for people with disabilities, and more). Their advice is invaluable in shaping our approaches. We have an anonymous feedback system in addition to open channels to encourage free feedback.


Philip, CommunityWise Center, 2/19/16
Hello (and sorry this is a bit of a ramble)

This is a really important topic/issue. CommunityWise is developing an equity framework taking into account multiple factors to determine everything from how much rent we charge to different groups, who has and needs access to the space (and why), and to address barriers to participation from members in the governance of the centre. The last bit kind of sounds like the classic “why don’t they come to my meeting/event” when really CommunityWise needs to be better in tune or relevant to the needs of our very diverse members (some more than others). It’s a problem of the Non-profit Industrial complex as well. At this stage we want to be transparent with our members and ensure that thier contributions have an impact on these decisions and that it isn’t tokenization.

Through research focusing on our centre and from developmental evaluation of our own community development programs to members we are exploring ways in which to support specific groups and communities wich face systemic challenges, oppression, and limits to access to resources where other perhaps more mainstream or charitable organizations do not. It’s been really interesting at the board, committee, and community level to have these conversations over the last little while.

One way that we can do this is through developing a rental equity policy. Right now we are reframing our office rental costs for all of our tenant members. It has, in the past, been based almost entirely on the size of the space. What we find though is that it is not groups that would benifit the most from space that get it but rather well resourced groups that can use greater amounts of time and social capital or existing relationships with communitywise administration staff/board to persure vacant or more desirable space in our centre. This is a social problem broadly that may also appear in other non profit centres as well. We are working to now take into account additional things like relative access to funding, what the group uses the sapce for, levels of inclusivity within their own organizations, need etc. when determining cost of rent and access to vacant space in the centre. Not directly related to rent but in other forms of support and services we provide this has been something of an informal practice but now, with staff and board succession planning in mind, we want to solidify this in a tansparent manner.

With Equity in mind are there things that others have tried or policies applied when deciding who gets space and how much they pay for it?


Alan Ziter, NTC Foundation, 2/19/16
I appreciate your inquiry and I hope this information will be helpful.

1. NTC Foundation has stewardship over 26 historic buildings. We renovate them and then lease them out to a range of nonprofit, for profit and sole proprietor tenants.

2. With regards to leasing:
a. First off, lease rates are established based on 1) how much money we need to collect to financially operate the buildings and have a maintenance reserve and
pay debt service. The rates are aligned with the current market for similar space.
b. Generally we have a nonprofit rate, and a commercial rate. Rates may vary based on the size of the lease space, just as in the commercial real estate market.
c. There are many groups – that are nonprofit and commercial – that we wish to have in the ARTS DISTRICT, however they cannot pay the rent that we must
charge to stay viable.
i. For those groups, we provide a Rental Subsidy from grant funds we have secured that will allow them to be in residence for the first two years at a subsidized rental rate, in the hopes their being here will help them to grow their earned income or better engage their donors. Of course there are some groups that we continue to subsidize with annual rental grant
ii. The lease is structured to show the “regular lease rate” we would normally charge, but allow for a “rental grant” rate from which they pay.
iii. This is a win-win because the NTC Foundation will then ‘pay itself’ from the grant funds for the differential.
iv. Each year we ‘grant out’ over $300,000 in rental subsidies, but we are a much more diverse and successful Arts District by doing this….and our building stay well maintained and secure and 100% occupied!


Online Resource Center

An Introduction to LEED
Critical Considerations for Designing Today’s Interior Spaces (Dovetail DCI)
Working With Your Architect (Chicago Community Loan)
NCN Webinar I Better Build Outs: Managing Tenant Improvement
Serve Denton’s Floor Plan


Topics Below:

Shared Space Design Advice
Percentage of Space Used for Conference Rooms and Collaboration Spaces
Innovative Use for Open Space (Communal Dining)


See also:

Costs for Redesign Drawings
Inclusive Shared Spaces
Vacant Buildings Repurposed
Virtual Tours of Shared Space


Shared Space Design Advice

From Ask-NCN Conversation 5/24/2017


Lara Jakubowski, The Nonprofit Centers Network
We were asked to pass on the following question from an NCN member:
We are in the planning stages for a 35,000 shared space for 12 human services agencies in a 110,000 square foot building. We are looking for design tips since our architects don’t have extensive experience working on projects like this. What are the best design features you incorporated in your shared space project? What mistakes did you make in your design?


Mary Jo Shircliffe, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Storage space!


Shelby Bradbury, Sierra Health Foundation
Being thoughtful of parking for tenants and guests.


Misha Palin, The Lab
1) storage space is definitely on my list too. (if you’re doing an event space think about where you’ll put chairs, etc. Also, we didn’t put storage in the offices, so all our offices have to bring cabinets if they want to store anything.
2) security, where are there going to be security holes in your design?
3) trash…we put in 3 trash draws in our kitchens and they work well.
4) dishwasher so the kitchen doesn’t get piles of dishes.
5) IT thoughtfulness: Laying in the highest capacity internet cables…spending the extra money as the technology becomes outdated so quickly. How will your entire building get good wifi coverage…make sure the wiring gets thought through early
6) sound bleed. Don’t skimp on insulation and how your tenants will be affected by sound. Sound travels through ceilings as well.
7) our office walls have 1 glass wall each…it creates a fishbowl effect. I think it helps with keeping people from hiding out…but it’s also not the most comfortable…not sure how to resolve that. I think partial window decals or curtains could be a good compromise.
8) figure out how much you need to make in order to cover your expenses. NCN has suggestions about how much common space you should have vs rentable space. Just remember, common space won’t be making you money but will be an amenity and may be rented for events. Don’t get yourself into a bad place where you make awesome common space that looks great but are losing money on your office overall.


Pam Mauk, Together Center
We have supports at what we call our Front Door (at our three building strip mall), which include touchscreen map, telephones, offices for our information and referral, an advocate office and a cultural navigator office. We created these out of other spaces over time, but you might think of the type of help you will want at the entry while you are planning.


Kim Sarnecki, Tides
Make your space as flexible as possible. Walls that retract, furnishings on wheels. You will appreciate the ability to be able to adjust spaces as needed.


Charlene Altenhain, Glasser Schoenbaum Human Services Center
Our center was built in 1990 and we are constantly wishing storage was included in the design. Storage for us and our tenants. Be cognizant of parking if you offer conference rooms. We have enough parking spaces for our tenants and their day-to-day clients. However, tenants will frequently hold meetings in our conference rooms, sometimes with up to 50 people and then parking definitely becomes an issue. Stations and dumpster for recycling is also important.


Mike Gilbert, The Jones Trust
Before you begin to work with the design team, you might want to host a partners meeting and discuss workflows as community where you can identify the natural collaborative work that will evolve and try to position the layout where all organizations have opportunity to maximize these collaborative efforts. Consider a large open front lobby with lots of natural light where people can gather for small evening receptions, etc. It is good for meeting rooms to open to the lobby if possible. Think about lots of glass and think about a centralized workroom and breakroom that helps stimulate conversation among building partners. Storage is necessary, but is it as valuable as program space? Are there other opportunities for storage solutions? Try to keep everything as flexible and modular where possible.

Considering your long term operating expenses and make lighting, heating & cooling choices based on life cycle costs so that you capitalize your energy conservation choices and enjoy the benefits with efficient operating expenses over time. LED lighting and daylight harvesting are good investments as well as occupancy sensors. Think of how you will manage the heat and air controls in the space. (It is easy to have the building fight itself if there are too many controllable thermostats).

Think of how you can activate the building and grounds for a pop up event for community building.


Michele Vandentillaart, The Link
I have to ditto Charlene’s comments, parking, storage, staff space and their storage needs, event supply storage are all very important as well as janitorial/maintenance space with slop sinks.


Valerie Hill, Center for Social Change
Our members have two favorite space features- our kitchen and our meditation room.
Our meditation room is a small space open to members all day but we also have guided meditations once a week as well as offer free 15min wellness sessions (massage, reiki, acupuncture, etc) once a month on a first come first serve basis.Our kitchen has a microwave, stove/oven, toaster oven, blender, juicer, etc and our members love to use it. If you do this, make sure you have windows or some sort of ventilation. A dishwasher is absolutely a smart move, we wish we had made! We have recently started composting and if there is an easy way for you to integrate that into your kitchen, I highly recommend it. It is also nice if possible to place your kitchen near natural light if you want to have a small herb garden.

Another popular feature is our home-made phone booth, it was a closet that we turned into a private area with sound proofing and a glass door.

I highly recommend looking into the best lighting because we have florescent lights throughout our building that nobody likes- there are studies about it triggering migraines and other issues. We end up turning off most of the lights and relying on lamps and window light for a more homey feel. My co-worker recommends LED lights and specifically color-changing LED lights in spaces where you may have frequent events. No need to hire a lighting company for an event, when it’s already built in!


Percentage of Space Used for Conference Rooms and Collaboration Spaces

Ask-NCN 4/25/2017


Debbie Shoemaker, Community Foundation for Southern Arizona
I am looking to see what existing nonprofit centers planned for conference room space? We are a nonprofit community foundation. We have bought a building and are now in the design process. Our community spaces will be in an area of around 8,000 square feet. We will have a large conference room, a co-lab space, a kitchen and some lounge areas. Does anyone have any experience on what percentage of that 8,000 sq ft should be conference room?


Mark Krider, Carroll Nonprofit Center
We have a 40,000 sq. ft. building with 24 nonprofits, we have just over 3000 sq. ft. of conference room space that can be divided equally into 3 rooms via portable walls, and it still not enough. I think the question is how large is your large conference room you already have, and what will it accommodate, a lot of board meeting we host can be anywhere from 12-20 people, we also have it where we can change the room to classroom style to host trainings up to 24 people. Or open all three rooms to host a conference, or a very large training, as many as 80 people. So its really what you are comfortable space wise on given up and what you are planning on hosting. I will say outside nonprofits do use our conference rooms so they are continuously being used. Remember a lot of meetings like to have some sort of food or drinks so have space allocated for that. I like to use the 40 sq. ft. per person for conference room space.


Angela Baldridge, The Plantory

We have about 15000 square feet, and we have 11 conference rooms. This is enough, but we sometimes convert one of our flexible spaces for events too. We stay pretty busy, with over 1000 people using them every month (and we’re in a pretty small market). We surveyed our members and the nonprofit community before building to get a sense of how much space to allocate and what it should be like; we have a large conference room that seats 80ish, a board room, two more board-size rooms, a yoga studio, and then 5 smaller (2-4 person) rooms. Then we also have an open coworking area that can be rented out along with our gallery. We have reservations every day at least, and our members get 10 hours of conference time included per desk so they also use the rooms regularly.

Innovative Use for Open Space (Communal Dining)

Ask-NCN 12.12.17


Kelsey Collier-Wise, United Way of Vermillion
We’re in the process of designing our center and would love some feedback/examples. One of the things that will be housed in our space is a once-a-week community meal that will require a large communal dining space. The rest of the week, we’d like to look at ways to partition or rearrange the space for other uses. If you have a large open space that you use in interesting or innovative ways or know of similar examples, please share!


Carlie Kuban, Serve Denton
Here is the floor plan for our shared space, the Serve Denton Center. We are located in Denton, TX. We have different options for shared space – large conference room, classroom, cafe area, and individual counseling rooms that can be booked. We add a monthly charge for agencies in the building to use the shared spaces, and then offer it as a one time fee for any other organizations that want to book these spaces. We’ve discussed using the conference room space for additional desks for our “hot desk” users throughout the week, depending on the need. We plan to use the conference room for educational seminars, social service group lunches, fundraisers, collaboration workshops, and more.


Diane Kaplan Vinokur, University of Michigan (Retired)
You may want to check out the Posner Center for International Development in Denver. They have a lunch space that is also used for community assemblies, presentations, etc.

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