1.26.17 - United Way of Greater Lorain County has acquired an 8,064 square foot building located at 642 Broadway Avenue in Lorain from the City of Lorain for $125,000. The move was approved by United Way’s board of directors and Lorain City Council late last year and the sale became official Thursday.
United Way traces its history in Lorain County back 100 years to the founding of the Elyria War Chest by Edgar “Daddy” Allen in 1917. Fifty years later - in 1967 - the Elyria War Chest combined with six other charities to form United Community Services of Lorain County, now known as United Way of Greater Lorain County.
Despite the 100 year legacy in the county, United Way has never owned a property. The agency has leased a 3,400 square foot office located at 1875 North Ridge Road East in Lorain for over 30 years.
United Way’s focus on community impact through direct services has created need for additional space. The current office is without a conference room after it was converted into cubicles for service providers - forcing board and partner meetings offsite. The office also lacks adequate space for the Lorain County Free Tax Prep Coalition to meet with clients and there is a shortage of storage space needed for volunteer supplies.
In addition, the current location is difficult for people without transportation to access due to a lack of sidewalks along North Ridge Road.
“We’re excited about the move to downtown Lorain for many reasons,” said United Way of Greater Lorain County executive director Bill Harper. “It makes us more accessible and visible, it’s a smart, responsible financial decision that saves us money and makes us more stable, and it gives us an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing revitalization of Broadway Avenue.”
The agency has ten full-time employees and two seasonal interns who will relocate to the new downtown office, along with additional Lorain County Volunteer Connection staff through a partnership with HandsOn Northeast Ohio.
The 642 Broadway building is more than double the square footage of the current North Ridge Road office. Research of current occupancy costs shows that buying and renovating the 642 Broadway building will have an up-front cost comparable to United Way continuing to rent its current location for an additional ten years. When compared to renting a space of similar size to 642 Broadway over the same ten year timeframe, United Way will save $300,000.
The current layout of 642 Broadway includes two large open spaces separated by a non-load bearing wall - a finished space in the front with functioning bathrooms, and a warehouse space in the back. United Way will build out the front space to include offices and a large meeting room, and much of the warehouse space will be kept as-is to be used for storage of volunteer supplies and for staging volunteer projects.
“We envision a space that is a hub of activity and we believe we’re uniquely positioned to help create more foot traffic in the area,” said Harper. “Our focus remains on serving low-income working families in Greater Lorain County, and now we can be a host for community meetings - including our board of directors and community collaboratives - and we’ll plan special events and volunteer projects that will bring our donors and partners to downtown. We’re looking forward to becoming a neighbor and partner to the existing businesses that are already doing great work on Broadway and we hope to add to the positive energy.”
United Way has recruited an ad-hoc design/build committee of community volunteers to guide the organization through the renovation and move to 642 Broadway. The committee will begin vetting local design/build firms in February and will vote on finalists by the end of that month. The finalists will then submit bids to renovate the space to fit the needs of the organization. Once a firm is selected, they would have two months to finalize the design. Construction would then start in early summer with a goal of completion and move-in by August.
642 Broadway is the site of the old Tivoli Theater, which operated from 1920 to 1930 as the Pantheon Theater before its name change. The theater closed in 1977 and was vacant until 1987 when it was demolished. The current building was constructed on the site in 2000.
Those interested in assisting United Way with the move through capital donations, volunteer efforts or design/build expertise can contact United Way at 440-277-6530.