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Springstep could sell Medford Square facility, take on tenants

Posted by Matt Byrne  March 16, 2012 04:00 PM

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Greg Pemru

The glass-front Springstep building in Medford Square is up for sale after the nonprofit experienced financial difficulties.

Despite turning a profit last year and showing signs of organizational strength, dance and arts nonprofit Springstep has put its Medford studio up for sale.

The offering, at $4.65 million, is an effort to restructure the group's use of the four-story, 14,000-square-foot building, which includes office and performance spaces, the board of trustees said in a statement.

"Springstep is in the process of exploring partnerships with other nonprofit institutions that might share stewardship of the building, seeking tenants interested in office and/or performance space," the group's board of trustees said in a statement to the Globe.

The board also looked to assuage fear that a sale means the organization is hurting. In 2011, record numbers of people signed up for classes, in addition to the most demand for art spaces and rentals, the group said.

"Springstep had a banner year in 2011 with stronger enrollment and a larger number of events than ever," said Lori Rutter, interim executive director. "Despite a tough economy, we ended the year in the black. While we are considering changes to our real estate structure, we fully expect to continue our nonprofit mission to connect people through dance, music, and the arts."

After the listing was published online last week, City Council President Robert A. Maiocco has requested that Mayor Michael J. McGlynn explore buying the property for city use. The council is set to debate the proposal Tuesday at 7 p.m.

"If it's feasible to renovate that building for a new police headquarters, I think the city should go ahead," Maiocco said Friday. "I think it would be a perfect location."

In a phone interview, McGlynn said he was informed a couple of months ago of the decision to possibly sell the property.

"I didn't have the impression that anyone was looking to unload the building, but rather they were looking at a continued use for the arts," McGlynn said of the conversation.

The amount is about $300,000 less than what the building cost, according to figures the Globe reported in 2003.  Springstep took on about $1 million in debt to complete construction.

Maiocco said the debate at Tuesday's meeting will be a "first look" at the idea for most of the councilors, who recently defeated a similar exploratory effort to study potential renovation of the current police station.

The listing comes less than nine years after the nonprofit opened the facility in September 2003.

The project was paid for by an extensive fundraising drive that netted about $3.9 million. The modern glass and metallic building features an art gallery, dance studios, offices, and performance space.

From 2003 to 2009, the most recent years for which information was available, donations to Springstep have fluctuated, tax records show. Their best year in that period was 2003, when the group took in $1,139,300. Since then, grants and donations averaged about $403,000 per year.

Liabilities, meanwhile, topped $3 million, according to the group's 2007 tax return. By 2009 that total dropped to $1.98 million.

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