Is it near the neighborhood we are serving?
It may be a cliché, but, especially for community-based organizations (CBOs), the three most important things to consider when deciding whether to lease or buy space are: Location, location and location. Being conveniently located in the community you serve is vital to the success of any CBO. With money always an issue, it can be tempting to take space that is more affordable, but not as convenient for your constituency. But fight the temptation!
Is it accessible to public transportation?
The ease with which both staff and clients can get to the location is also critical. This is especially true if you serve a widely dispersed clientele. Not only should the location be close to subway and bus lines, but make sure that they are routes that serve the same populations that you do!
Can we negotiate a lease that gives us an option to rent additional space under predetermined rental terms and conditions?
As your organization grows, you want to be able to grow with it without the cost and disruption of having to move to a completely different location. For this reason, it is important to not only know if expansion space is available, but to try to lock in the terms under which it would be available to you should you need it.
What is allowed under the certificate of occupancy?
A certificate of occupancy is issued by the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) and describes what the premises can be used for. Most buildings – unless specified otherwise – for example, do not permit the premises to be used for public assembly or for classrooms. It is, therefore, important to review the certificate to make sure the space can legally accommodate your needs. More information can be found on the New York City Department of Buildings website.
Is there a sub-lease clause? What does it allow?
Unless specifically called for in the lease, if the CBO moves, requires less space, etc., in order to reduce its overhead for the space it no longer requires, a broad sublease clause permits the CBO to find other tenant(s) for its excess premises. In short, you want to have the maximum flexibility to sub-let extra space you don’t need at any point in time. You need to know what those options are before you sign a lease.
There are, of course, dozens of other questions a CBO needs to ask when making a decision about space. For example, “Is the rent fair?”, “How long a lease do we want?”, etc. Gray Matters has experienced experts in New York City real estate who are available, at no cost, to New York not-for-profit organizations to help answer these questions. Simply contact us!
By Gray Matters Member Steve Freidus