"I was not surprised when I learned that Gandhi Brigade would have to move out of our space in City Place Mall the end of this year. After all the owners had given us a a deeply discounted rental rate over the last five years and we knew from the beginning that they were working on plans to renovate the mall.
I was surprised, however to learn that Arts on the Block was going to lose their space in November, IMPACT Silver Spring’s lease would run out the same month and Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers were going to be out of their spaces in December. This was remarkable. Separate circumstances had pushed four youth serving organizations to find new space all at the same time.
If a crisis is a terrible thing to waste then perhaps it is time for nonprofit organizations to make the most of this situation and get to work building support for a nonprofit village in Silver Spring. In fact the aptly named Busy Graham did just that. She reached out to a number of nonprofit organizations and received a quick and passionate response to the idea of a space that could house a number of nonprofits.
More interesting still is the reasons given for wanting to join a nonprofit village. Yes the ever rising commercial rates in redeveloped Silver Spring are making it very hard for nonprofit organizations to stay here. (There was a time when reasonably priced Silver Spring drew Washington organizations seeking shelter from the gentrification storm.) But beyond the desire for cheaper, more dependable space, was a strong desire to be part of a community of organizations. More than their counterparts in the government and for-profit sectors, non-profits live and breath collaboration. Working in proximity makes us more effective and more creative.
So where can we go? Surplus county property. Right now Montgomery County has at least three surplus properties: the old library, the HHS building on Georgia, and the Sligo Ave. police station which will be empty in January when the Third District moves up county. This building could easily house a dozen or more nonprofit agencies. This would be a net gain for the county. Not only would the County reap the improvements of the social good sector but the rent paid by the nonprofit tenants could easily pay for utilities and management plus a profit equal to the property tax the County would have collected had it been sold to a private developer.
The time has come for a nonprofit village in Silver Spring. But if its going to happen we will have to do it together.
For more information on the Gandhi Brigade, visit their website at http://www.gandhibrigade.org/
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Disclaimer. The purpose of this blog is to inform Silver Spring residents about important events and issues affecting them. Any views expressed represent those of the author(s) and not necessarily all representatives of the Presidents’ Council of Silver Spring Civic Associations.