Cornerstone Family Programs, the nonprofit that merged with the Morristown Neighborhood House in 2013, plans to sell its Elm Street headquarters and expand or replace the Flagler Street facilities of the Neighborhood House, MorristownGreen.com has learned.
In a letter to funders obtained by Morristown Green, Cornerstone CEO Patrice Picard said Cornerstone programs are being delivered in private homes, senior centers and the Neighborhood House, leaving the nearly 20,000-square-foot building at 62 Elm St. “underutilized.”
Right now, “the commercial real estate market in Morristown is highly desirable and we have seen a keen interest in the building,” the letter states.
Proceeds from the prospective sale should “improve and sustain the funding for our critical client programs” including preschool, afterschool and adult day care, Picard said, citing a strategic plan to adapt to clients’ changing needs and the evolving healthcare landscape.
Children’s programs, elder care, immigrant support and veterans’ programs will be boosted, while Cornerstone will relinquish addiction treatment and behavioral health counseling — services Picard said are provided increasingly by medical professionals under insurance plans.
Cornerstone’s board hopes the sale of a 13-year-old office building with 40 parking spaces near the town train station will go a long way towards consolidating operations at the 27,000-square-foot Neighborhood House–a heavily used building that may be expanded or replaced with larger facilities nearby in the Second Ward.
“To continue to best serve our community, we are taking an exciting step forward and beginning to evaluate several alternatives that would accommodate our ongoing growth at the Morristown Neighborhood House property on Flagler Street, which could house both our administrative offices and MNH programs under one roof,” Picard said in a statement, responding to Morristown Green’s questions about her letter to funders.
“These options could include expanding and redeveloping the existing Neighborhood House property or acquiring a site or new property in the area,” Picard said.
“We are excited about our future and our increased focus on educational success for our children, economic opportunity for immigrant and low-income families, elder care, and veterans’ programs,” the statement said.
The 2013 merger married two nonprofits with deep roots in the community. The Neighborhood House has helped immigrants and working class families since 1898. Over the generations its clientele has shifted from Italians and Irish to African Americans and now, mainly, Latinos.
Cornerstone, previously known as Family Service of Morris County, goes back even farther, established by local churchwomen to help families affected by the War of 1812.
The marriage has had its challenges, starting with branding. Technically, the Neighborhood House is a subsidiary of Cornerstone, even though its local name recognition is greater.
At the time of the merger, Cornerstone said the move was designed to shore up finances at the Neighborhood House –which was $700,000 in debt–and to enable the combined organizations to compete more efficiently for funding.
Cornerstone went in serving 7,000 clients across northern New Jersey with a staff of 100 and a budget of $3.6 million. The Nabe, as it’s popularly known, was providing educational, recreational and cultural programs for about 1,500 clients daily with a budget of around $3 million and a staff of about 80.
The combined organization now serves nearly 10,000 clients, with a staff of about 150 and a budget of $5.5 million, according to Cornerstone, which says the merged enterprise is on sound financial footing.
After-school programs range from arts, dance, basketball, karate and soccer to robotics, guitar and violin instruction and tutoring in STEM subjects.
About 20 staffers have offices at the three-story Elm Street building, which is being marketed by the commercial real estate firms Transwestern and Holliday Fenoglio Fowler L.P.
It sits on nearly an acre, is debt-free, and is zoned for business uses, including offices, retail (except for department stores), restaurants and personal and business services, according to the property listing.
The marketers are pitching it as a rare find in a business district boasting a 95 percent occupancy rate, and rents of $40 to $60 per square foot for boutique office buildings.
It’s also in an area poised for redevelopment. Around the corner at Blachley Place are two vacant lots from buildings destroyed in a 2015 fire. Across the street, the site of a long-gone lumberyard awaits a new use, most likely apartments or condos.
Morristown’s planning board is studying whether it can condemn the lumberyard property for redevelopment. Another potential catalyst for the area, a housing redevelopment pitched for the Morristown train station parking lot, is stalled by technical issues.
Easing traffic congestion is a primary concern going forward, said town Planner Phil Abramson.
Cornerstone “has been a good fit for that area,” Abramson said. “A similar use, with a similar level of intensity, particularly if it had a similar social mission, would be nice to see.”