What to do about the looming commercial foreclosure mess?

I am up against all sorts of deadlines in preparation for my 5-week national book tour starting on Friday. So it’s likely to be quiet around here until I hit the road and start encountering some really inspiring people and projects, and then you probably won’t be able to get me to shut up.

In any case, I do feel like I need to address the growing wave of news like this cheery front page story from yesterday’s Sacramento Bee. It reports that “Earlier this month some of the nation’s biggest property developers warned that thousands of office complexes, hotels and shopping centers face bankruptcy and foreclosure.”

So what to do? Tenants of troubled malls are unlikely to be surprised by an eviction notice if an owner gets into trouble (as has sometimes been the case for residential foreclosures), but they are likely to see all sorts of trouble with delayed maintenance or possibly getting utilities cut off in extreme cases.

This problem might turn out to be more pronounced for nonprofits, which often rent space in older and smaller buildings. With all the funding problems, nonprofits have enough trouble as it is at a time that we need them more than ever; further disruption should be avoided at all costs.

Do they have any options?

Well, yes. For example, there is Spokane’s Community Building, which is actually several buildings that has provided a nonprofit landlord situation. They are currently working on a food co-0p on the same block of what was once a forgotten corner of downtown. Disclaimer: they have an angel investor, which helps greatly. Of course, most communities have benevolent wealthy people who could be recruited with a solid plan.

And there are other examples, which don’t rely on Mr. or Ms. Moneybags. For example, consider Denver’s Alliance Center, which is the home of a large coalition of nonprofits.

And Madison (WI)’s Social Justice Center.

And Portland (OR)’s Natural Capital Center.

And Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation.

And Portsmouth (NH)’s Community Campus.

And Wilmington’s Community Service Building.

And San Francisco’s Thoreau Center for Sustainability.

I’m sorry this is only a quick list and I don’t have more time to wax eloquent about them all. (I’ll make up for it next month) But I just want to get these examples out there. Not all of them are co-ops,a nd not all will be appropriate to a given situation, But if anyone is getting a bad feeling about their landlord, take heart in the knowledge that there are pioneers who have developed useful models. Start sharing these models with other tenants in your building, and see what happens.

OK, I’d better get a move on here. Happy 2009, y’all!



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1 Response to What to do about the looming commercial foreclosure mess?

  1. Tony Orlando says:

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

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