$4 million office building for nonprofits seeks tenants

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Carroll Nonprofit Center is accepting applications for rent-free space in its $4 million building under construction in Westminster.

Anverse Inc., a Georgia-based charity that is building the center, has set a March 15 deadline for applicants and expects to make final decisions on tenants by early summer. The center should open by the end of the year, charity officials said yesterday.

"We have letters out requesting applications," said Marty Sonenshine, executive director of Anverse. "We will review the applications and possibly make site visits. Then, there will be an internal process to decide who will get the space."

About 20 nonprofits have inquired about the space in the 40,000-square-foot building so far and many more are expected before the deadline, he said.

Anverse broke ground on the three-story building last fall after paying nearly $700,000 for the 3-acre lot in Westminster's Englar Business Park. Barring weather complications, construction should be completed by December, company officials said.

Head Start, the federally funded early childhood program that is losing space in several area schools, will occupy the first floor. The remaining two floors will be devoted to "as few as 10 or as many as 30" organizations, Sonenshine said.

"Everyone needs space," he said. "It just depends on how much space. We have an early summer timeline, so our contractor can build out the suites."

Sonenshine provided details of the project yesterday to members of the Community Services Council of Carroll County. When one member asked whether Anverse would continue to provide funding to keep the building operating, Sonenshine replied, "We will be here for years and years."

The building, which Sonenshine called "our guinea pig," would include a research library, a conference room as well as the office suites. Anverse would provide landscaping, maintenance and housekeeping services - an estimated $300,000 annual expense, he said.

The foundation is also furnishing the building. Because they will not have to pay rent, charities will have more money to put into their programs, Sonenshine said.

About the only outlay for tenants will be the cost of utilities, a yet-to-be determined fee that would be based on a square-foot occupancy, he said.

A meeting room and a grant research library for organizations that typically have little access to professional advisers, accountants and lawyers will be invaluable, said Audrey Cimino, director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County, an umbrella charitable organization that will be housed in the new building.

"We are applying like everyone else," Cimino said. "We are all going to be beneficiaries of this largesse. There is nothing like this in the region."

Cimino envisions the center offering lectures, training programs and seminars. Anverse has researched the concept extensively and has great ideas to put in place, she said.

"The library will have two data ports to help struggling organizations that may not have access," said Mark Krider, Anverse's Westminster office director.

Charitable organizations not housed in the building will have free use of the library and conference areas, Sonenshine said.

"We want to make sure the library especially is used," he said. "We will probably start off with basic materials and access to databases and then, slowly upgrade."

Anverse Inc. was formed as a private foundation in 2000 in Carterville, Ga. It is fully endowed and does not engage in fund-raising activities, Sonenshine said.

A review of tax returns filed by Anverse shows that it is mostly funded by proceeds from the sale of Prestige Communications of NC Inc. - a company that held the cable franchise for Carroll County for 16 years.

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