FAQ About Possible Church Purchase

This document was created by the Ad Hoc working group, comprised of current and former Board members, Land and Facilities Committee members, Finance committee members, and other interested people.  This is not a closed group:  anyone interested in helping is invited to contact Michele Wallace.  The group has been working with the Board in this process.

ABOUT THE SPACE

Where is the building located?

10347 Ibis Street NW, Coon Rapids, about a block north of Coon Rapids Blvd on Ibis St. Hansen and Foley.

How far is this from our current location?

10347 Ibis Street is 7.2 miles from 6565 Oakley Drive.

How do I get there?

For those traveling from outside of the community, this location is quite easily accessible from the west via state highway 610, from the northwest and southeast via state highway 10 exiting at Hanson or Foley, and from the south via East River Road/Coon Rapids Blvd, aka County 10.

How big is the Ibis Street building compared to Oakley Drive?

In total square feet, the Ibis Street building is 24,446 sq. feet compared to about 6,000 in the current building on Oakley Drive.

Isn’t this building too big?

While a smaller church, more like twice our current size, might be better in the short run, it would probably not be cheaper, or better in the long run.  This building is a remarkable value at about $42 a square foot, as compared with the more common $60 - $75 a square foot range.  In addition, if we couldn’t find immediate uses or rental opportunities for all of the space, we could close portions off until we (hopefully) grew into them. 

How do the sanctuaries compare?

Our current sanctuary holds 86 people comfortably with 3 people to a pew. We max out at 105 with 4 people to a pew. The sanctuary of the church under consideration can hold 140 in the main sanctuary. There is overflow space on the main floor via an accordion door, as well as balcony space which is not ADA accessible.

How does parking compare?

The Ibis Street church has 61 marked parking spaces, and 6565 Oakley Drive has 40.  More neighborhood parking is available next to the Ibis Street church than near the Oakley Drive church. 

Is the Ibis Street Church more visible?

Possibly.  The Ibis Street church lot is about a block away from Coon Rapids Boulevard in a neighborhood area. Currently being listed with the church lot is a lot right on Coon Rapids Boulevard with a large sign for the church.  If we purchased both lots, or at least owned or had permission for a sign on the Coon Rapids Boulevard lot, visibility would be greatly increased.   

What amenities does the new building have?

Commercial kitchen; Wheelchair ramps; Large enough sanctuary and social hall to fit weddings and memorial services for our own congregation; Terrazo flooring with Wurtsbaugh radiant in floor heat in the sanctuary; Metal roof; Stucco siding; More rooms available allowing for dedicated use, such as for music space, multiple RE classrooms, and concurrent meetings.

Is the building on a public transit route?

There are buses on Coon Rapids Boulevard, but, sadly, not on Sundays.  The closest place you could get on Sunday by public transportation is the Northtown Mall, approximately 3.5 miles from 10347 Ibis Street. We would recommend that there be pickups from Northtown Mall by members.

Is the building ADA accessible?

Yes, the building is wheelchair accessible with ramps, except for the balcony. There is a covered drop-off area at the front entrance off of Ibis street, and a ramp from the parking lot to the east entrance. 

What can be done about the crosses and general aesthetics?

Toning down or removing the crosses and other religious icons are important to a number of people, and several are already thinking creatively about short and long term solutions; your ideas are welcome. There are other improvements to the overall look that many would want to make to turn it into our own space.  While there are some immediate things that can be done, permanent changes of any magnitude will take some time, or happen in stages.

It should also be noted that we are surrounded by crowns and crosses in every window in the sanctuary at 6565 Oakley Drive, except for the chalice window. 

Does this building have any significant problems?

The church and classroom building does not appear to have any significant maintenance issues or problems, although there are some cosmetic issues with walls that need paint and are dinged up a bit, and the carpet in the fellowship hall is old. 

Although some have discussed getting inspections done prior to making any offers, that is expensive, and not commonly done for commercial space.  We would make sure to protect our interests by making a purchase contingent on “passing” any inspections that are deemed critical. 

The parsonage does have more extensive maintenance issues, such as water damage around some of the windows, and may need some work done to prevent further damage, even if closed for the time being. 

ABOUT FINANCIAL ISSUES

Can we afford to purchase the building?

Yes. We believe we have $500,000 in equity in our current building, and approximately $472,500 in cash and investment accounts.  We can also raise money through a capital campaign and through financing a mortgage. Using a combination of those assets, we would be able to pay a reasonable price for the building. 

Is anything being done to see what our market value is for 6565 Oakley? 

Yes, knowing the actual market value of 6565 Oakley may determine whether we can go forward.  We are working with a realtor who may be showing the property to potential buyers. This does not obligate us in any way to sell, but is good way to determine value.

Won’t the church on Ibis Street be too costly to maintain?

While costs for cleaning, insurance, utilities and routine maintenance would be higher for the building on Ibis Street because it is larger, these costs are proportionally small, currently about 10% of our annual expenses.  

Our conservative estimate (not using the lowest numbers) is that operating costs would be $14,000 per year more in the new space. Hiring a building maintenance person for twenty hours a month would cost another estimated $5,000 per year, if needed.  With professional maintenance and rounding the numbers up, the additional costs would be about a 10% increase to our total overall expenses. 

Mortgage payments, if any, would add to that annual cost. 

To get this estimate we tried to get actual numbers, such as by getting quotes for cleaning services, and looking at the actual utility bills in both locations. 

Would we need to increase staff costs at the building on Ibis Street?

No.  The cost for our core professionals (minister, director of religious education, music director, and office manager/bookkeeper), is the same at either location for our current membership size. 

Have start-up costs been considered?

Yes. Note that the movable office furniture currently at the building is included with the sale. $10,000 has been included in the estimated cost of purchase to cover such things as movers, paint, small repairs, and some additional furniture.

We have not included a budget for larger scale updating or renovation, such as the changing the carpet in the fellowship hall, as this could be deferred until we experience some growth in revenue. 

Isn’t this too much of a financial risk when we are already running a deficit?

Our investment money enables us to be able to take some calculated risks to improve and enhance our future, and the future of our denomination in the northern suburbs.  

Our current projected expenditure from reserves is directly attributable to taking the calculated risk of increasing our ministerial and other staff hours, without the same increase in pledge and other fundraiser income, and so is not completely unexpected. 

 We need to turn those numbers around whether we stay or move. 

But, if we stay, we risk further depleting the investments available to make a later move succeed.  Right now, after moving, if we take on some amount of a mortgage, we would have an estimated five to ten year “cushion” within which to turn things around.  Even with no mortgage, we would still likely have several years before we were out of cash.  And, out of cash does not mean out of assets.  We would still have ourselves and our building. 

Are there new opportunities for outside income with the new building?

Yes, in addition to having more room to grow our membership, we expect there are opportunities for outside income from rentals of the kitchen, classrooms, and parsonage at the Ibis Street church.  However, most activities to generate outside income do come with some cost to us as well, and so we are not estimating any immediate revenue generation from any source.

ABOUT GROWTH

Do we need more space to grow our membership?

We have made repeated commitments to grow our membership to 150.  We have done many things to try to make that happen over the past twenty plus years, and despite all efforts, our membership has stayed flat, bouncing around 100.  Our sanctuary is full enough right now for some outsiders to feel unwelcome; the competition for use of space is more and more challenging; and we are already unable to host many of our own weddings and memorial services.  Every minister and outside professional we have asked has told us that our space is limiting our growth, and that we are perfectly proportioned for about 100 members.  While we could fit in a few more, we just don’t have room for another fifty members.

Why was the number of 150 chosen for a growth target?

The goal of 150 members was chosen as a target based on studies from the Alban Institute and elsewhere of the sociology and dynamics of different sized church groups. The view is that 150 is still small enough for the congregation to have strong relationships and be welcoming, but large enough to be professional in how we do church; and to offer a greater number of programs and ministries to congregants as well as to the outside community 

Why have we committed to growth? 

Many who support growth feel it is a calling of this faith to be radically inclusive and welcoming, and to have space at the table for others who need us.

Can’t we expand our physical space at 6565 Oakley?

Expansion in our current lot is limited by zoning restrictions.  Even if we could overcome these code restrictions by getting variances or purchasing surrounding land, new construction is very expensive ($200 a square foot minimum) plus the expenses for the land, making the building ADA compliant, and would not necessarily address issues of parking, accessibility, furnishing, and kitchen upgrades.

Why don’t we wait to purchase a building until we grow more?

The timing will never be perfect, but doing this now makes a lot of sense, and is the culmination of at least ten years of work to get to this point.  We have a settled, full time minister in place, and are “staffed” up to support growth. We have done a lot of work to restructure our governance and practices to support growth.  We have worked at how we interact with visitors to be more welcoming.  We have seen evidence of a real growth spurt, with nine new members so far this year alone, more than the last several years combined.  We are working on finding our mission in the community, which could be spurred on to greater urgency by being in a different place.  And, we have the money now to make this work.

It is also the case that suitable opportunities don’t come around very often. Interested people have been looking at possible spaces for the past twelve years, and after investigating about fifty different spaces of all sorts, this is the only one that the group has been excited about.  While simply purchasing this building will not insure growth – we still have to “do church right” and actively work to increase membership, we also cannot assume that a suitable building will be available when we get to the point of having grown so much that we have to move. 

WHAT ABOUT … IF WE MOVE?

Do we have a plan to grow membership?

We do not have a specific plan for growing membership if we purchase this building compared to if we stay put. We recognize that growing membership will be critical if we decide to purchase this building.

What happens to our relationships with community organizations in/near Fridley?

We’d have to determine that. Moving would put us geographically further from some of our community partners. As a congregation, we’d have to decide which relationships we maintain and where we might move into different partnerships with organizations in the new neighborhood.

What would it be like to be in the Coon Rapids community?

We don’t know for sure, but Coon Rapids is in an area that is not known for welcoming immigrants, refugees, women with unplanned pregnancies, or anyone part of or supporting the LGBTQ community. It could be that there are many there who need us.  The MidAmerica district has help in how to figure out how to serve a community while furthering our values.  To some, this is an exciting opportunity. 

What if we lose members by moving?

We would hate to lose anyone in a move, but it may happen.  We could also lose members if we stay.  If we are able to stay in community and conversation, we hope to lessen either outcome. 

Are there steps being taken to make sure that no one feels “priced out” of a move? 

While we will need to do a capital campaign if we move, we know that not everyone will be able to contribute significantly to that.  There is no minimum donation for a capital campaign, any amount would be deeply appreciated, and needed.  We have not talked about it much yet, but there will also be a great need for contributions of time and talent to make this work.   

ABOUT THE NEXT STEPS

If the vote is in favor of attempting to buy this church, what happens next? 

The Board has appointed a negotiating team of Chad Snyder and Michele Wallace to get the best deal possible for us, if the vote is favorable.  Many of you have already brought up points that can be used in negotiating, and we welcome your additional ideas about that.

What contingencies would we put into an offer to purchase?

Any offer would be contingent on selling 6565 Oakley Drive, and on securing financing, which could include raising enough in an initial capital campaign to make the overall package work.   Other contingencies could include passing various inspections.  The negotiating team would be charged with determining these contingencies. We welcome congregational input.

The way this works is that if one or more of our contingencies are not met, we would walk away from the deal.  On the other hand, with contingencies, the Seller would be able to continue to show the property, and if another buyer was found, we could lose the property to them. 

Assuming the vote is in favor, will the congregation approve the final contract? 

No.  We would like the congregation to decide as much as possible, but there are so many moving parts, and the Board and negotiating team need to have the authority to negotiate. 

Will the congregation have a say in how the purchase is financed, if approved?

The seller doesn’t care too much about how we pay, and so we are planning to come back to the congregation with options for alternative funding scenarios, if we get a signed purchase agreement.

If we sign a purchase agreement, when would we have to move? 

It depends.  It could take a while to sell 6565 Oakley Drive, and that sale’s closing could also be contingent, or be delayed for other reasons by the buyer.  We would also have the ability to include our own timeline as a part of the negotiation. 

I can’t be at the June 4 meeting.  Will I still be able to vote?  

YES!  The Board approved proceeding in an “action by ballot,” pursuant to Minnesota Statutes on this issue at their meeting on May 3, 2017.  We have not done business this way before, but having every single member able to participate in this decision if they choose to do so is consistent with our values.   

We are still working out some of the details, but what is contemplated is that we will have a discussion on June 4, and either immediately following the discussion, or soon after, the “action by ballot” period of time, probably three weeks, will start.  Every member will therefore be able to cast a ballot.  

If I can vote later, why do I need to attend the June 4 meeting?    

It is absolutely essential that as many members as possible attend the June 4 meeting.  Our interpretation of the bylaws is that at least 40% of the membership needs to be in attendance on June 4 to even start the balloting process.  Plus, it will be another opportunity for information sharing and discussion, which could be helpful to the decision-making process. 

What percentage of the congregation needs to approve this decision to go forward?    

The bylaws require that 75% of the votes of the congregation, and 2/3 of the Board has to approve the decision to go forward.  However, we think that for a decision of this import, that is too low, and so will propose that the decision must be approved by 90% of the congregation to pass, similar to what a settled minister would require in order to accept a position.

What are the next steps for our congregation?

  1. Continue to ask questions and offer feedback as you think through your own priorities and hopes and dreams for our congregation.
  2. Come to the special meeting of the congregation on June 4. 
  3. Cast your vote!   The specific wording of the proposed motion will be detailed in the meeting call and listed specifically in documentation leading up to the vote. 

 

May 4, 2017