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Unitarian Universalist Association seeks to move from Beacon Hill

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  May 9, 2012 05:29 PM

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The national Unitarian Universalist Association, headquartered in a historic Beacon Hill building, is looking for a new home that will offer more open space and modern facilities.

“We’re looking for something with more flexible, modern space and the ability to put the whole staff in one building,” Tim Brennan, the association’s chief financial officer, said Wednesday.

The 51-year-old association has been at 25 Beacon St. since it was established when the Unitarian and Universalist churches consolidated. The American Unitarian Association used the building as its headquarters after it was built in 1927.

But the association, which has 1,000 congregations and 200 staff members nationwide, has outgrown its historic home.

Employees work a block apart at 25 Beacon St. and 41 Mt. Vernon St. and the buildings offer few open spaces and common areas for staff to interact and work together, according to a report outlining the reasons behind the proposed move presented to the association’s Board of Trustees in April.

The board voted to consider proposals for the sale of its headquarters and new locations.

The offices at 25 Beacon St., which include the association’s publishing company Beacon Press, are not handicap accessible and there is no high speed internet at 41 Mt. Vernon St., according to the report.

The brownstones also need renovations the association estimates could cost up to $10 million over the next seven years.

“We would have to invest substantial amount of money in these buildings. At their age many of their systems are wearing out and need to be replaced,” said Brennan without ruling out renovation as an option.

The association expects to stay in the Boston or Cambridge area if it moves and would like to find building that is at least 45,000 square feet, accessible by public transportation, and energy efficient, according to criteria for a location as outlined the report.

An ideal building would also have large floors with open layouts, ample meeting spaces, a dining area and break rooms, and public space, such as a visitor center or book store.

“We’d want to create a building that is welcoming and interesting for people to come to,” said Brennan.

If the association does sell its headquarters it could possibly also sell its other properties on Beacon Hill, which include 41 Mt. Vernon St. and their guest houses on Mt. Vernon Place, said Brennan.

The sale of those properties would bring in a substantial sum that could help the association pay for a new space and add $10 million or more to its endowment, according the the report submitted to the board.

The association previously considered moving last year when it submitted a bid to purchase the Hebrew College campus in Newton. That offer was never acted on, and Hebrew College announced Wednesday it no longer plans to sell its property.
Twitter: @YourBeaconHill, @JohannaKaiser

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