Nov 12 2020

Lease of Piedmont Art Center Building Questioned

A controversial item has been placed on the November 16, 2020 Council Agenda…the lease of City property at 801 Magnolia Avenue, the Art Center.  Agenda here.

The Council composition is soon to change based on the recent election of Conna McCarthy to replace Bob McBain on the City Council. Given the lease terms and controversy, questions have been raised regarding the need to act prior to the seating of the new Council, which will occur within days in early December 2020. The current Art Center lease does not end until June 2021.

With over six months left on the lease, a citizen asked, “What is the rush?”  Others have called for a widely publicized community evaluation of the use of the City property, since one has never been undertaken.

Adding to the controversy, a proposed fee schedule for 801 Magnolia Avenue would not be developed and brought back to the Council until after the new lease agreement has been approved by the Council.

The staff report estimates the office space “market rate” rental at $50 per foot, by comparing it with the Veterans Hall office rental rate of $36 per square foot leased to the Piedmont Education Foundation, the  local non-profit organization benefiting Piedmont schools. The reason to compare a rental rate for commercial entities with the rental rate charged to a local non-profit is questioned.

Commercial rental space in Piedmont is at a  premium because of location and scarcity.  Plus, the City property at 801 Magnolia Avenue includes two much-sought-after parking spaces.

A number of citizens would like the fee structure to be a part of the lease discussion, prior to approval of any lease.  It has been proposed that the Recreation Department manage all use of the space to assure appropriate and full use of the property. The staff proposed agreement provides for City programs and events as well as private non arts-related rentals.

The building at 801 Magnolia Avenue was purchased with taxpayer’s funds.  If income from the property were to be maximized, it has been estimated rental income from various uses could bring in over $200,000 per year.

  • Who should manage the building?
  • What purposes should the property be used?
  • What use of this city property would be most beneficial for the community?

Opinion articles have been published on this site.

Opinion: Why Rush 801 Magnolia Lease?

Citizens have suggested various uses for the property.  Some are listed below.

— a community library,

— senior center,

— Dress Best for Less, drop off site and marking room, benefits schools and Piedmont’s local recycling goals,

— counseling/ tutoring space,

— recreation programs,

— meeting site,

— rentals for weddings, book reviews, receptions, celebrations,

— performances and art shows,

— recital and amateurmusical practice space.

The staff report is linked below

.Art Center Introduction and 1st Reading of Ord. 758 N.S. – Approving a Lease Agreement with Piedmont Center for the Arts for City Property at 801 Magnolia Avenue

3 Responses to “Lease of Piedmont Art Center Building Questioned”

  1. Replying to the question of whether the Recreation Department could realize revenues exceeding $200,000/year by renting out 801 Magnolia’s West Wing while STILL giving The Piedmont Center some 450 hours of FREE usage to do the same venue rentals they do now, here is a rough calculation for that figure:

    The Recreation Dept. would take over renting to the BNI group ($15,000/year),the Post ($15,000/yr), The East Bay Children’s Choir ($7,000/year est.), Community Group Fundraisers ($2000/yr. est) and to teachers for recitals ($6,000/yr. est.). that comes to 44,000. In June, July and August, when PCA presents few arts groups to the public (4 in June,2019 for 20 hrs; 6 in July for 27 hrs; 4 in Aug.for 26 hrs.), the Rec.could run summer camps. 5 weeks of kids’ yoga/hip-hop($37,275) and; 2 of Princess Ballet ($9000), plus 8 weddings a month on the weekends ($146,400 based on S/S resident fees at Community Center), amounts to $236,000. Add in two weeks vacation camps (ski week and Xmas) when the”going rate”, based on the current Recreation “Camp Smart” of $1100 for a max of 56 students (assuming 30, that would be $66,000) for a grand total of $302,000 while leaving plenty of time for PCA’s art exhibits and musical offerings.

    801 Magnolia far exceeds the cold, sterile atmosphere of the Veteran’s Hall for a wedding. And, N.B.: today’s mobile caterers no longer cook in kitchens! Bottom Line: The City’s opportunity cost for again giving up control of 801 Magnolia is truly closer to $300,000.

  2. Nancy is correct with her last point – using Veterans as the “comp” to calculate revenue for 801 is flawed.

    801 has much greater potential as a venue/reception space and council members should request a better estimate before approving the lease. If not, they are truly passing up at least $100,000 in revenue that could be used to the benefit of Piedmont. I just attended a Pedestrian/Bicycle meeting where staff claimed there are no funds to replace the god awful bollards it keeps installing.

    City Hall should try raising revenue instead of raising taxes.

  3. Many in town have requested a more robust conversation concerning the future of 801 Magnolia. Given the passage of UU and the new theater going in across the street, other uses should be explored before Council decides on a lease renewal. Nancy has listed realistic revenue sources which are not maned in the staff report.

    City Council, please continue this until we minimally have a Town Hall type meeting on this and the new Council is sworn in.

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