Cornerstone Family Programs, the nonprofit parent of the Morristown Neighborhood House, has sold its Elm Street headquarters and will use the money to enhance programs and pursue expansion or replacement of the Nabe’s building, Cornerstone CEO Patrice Picard said on Friday.
“It’s good to know we can take the proceeds and do something wonderful for the community,” Picard said.
Cornerstone’s nearly-20,000-square-foot headquarters at 62 Elm St.–near the Morristown train station in an area poised for redevelopment–was sold this week for more than $5 million to Dobco Inc., a construction company in Wayne, said Kevin O’Hearn of HFF New Jersey, a realty firm that represented Cornerstone along with Transwestern.
Dobco has expressed interest in leasing the three-story facility for continued office use, O’Hearn said. With 40 parking spaces and its proximity to mass transit, it’s ideal for a single tenant such as a boutique law firm, he said.
The sale price indicates just how desirable Morristown has become, O’Hearn added. The building has about 17,500 square feet of rentable space–which works out to nearly $300 per square foot, he said. By comparison,Allergan paid about $80 a square foot for vacant space at Giralda Farms in Madison, he said.
“Right now Morristown is hot,” offering a vibrant, accessible, walkable downtown attractive both to young professionals looking to establish roots and to empty nesters seeking more than “sleepy side-streets,” O’Hearn said.
Cornerstone’s core administrative staff, about a dozen people, will relocate in August to a 3,400-square foot house at 80 Washington St. It’s leased for five years, Picard said.
The move is a little “bittersweet,” she acknowledged, noting she oversaw fundraising to build the Elm Street headquarters 14 years ago. It’s debt-free, with plenty of room–more administrative space than Cornerstone needed, its board decided last fall when the building was placed on the market.
Now the nonprofit can focus on strengthening services for children, immigrants, the elderly and veterans, and possibly on adding programs for teens and workforce development, Picard said.
A committee also will study options for the Neighborhood House, a Morristown institution that has helped immigrants since 1898.
Cornerstone, previously known as Family Service of Morris County, has an even longer history. Local churchwomen established it to help families affected by the War of 1812.
The organizations merged in 2013.
“We’ve had feelers out” for new locations near the Nabe’s heavily used 27,000-square-foot facility on Flagler Street, Picard said. Alternatively, Cornerstone could enlarge that building with an aim toward housing both nonprofits there.
“Over the next couple of years we’re going to figure out how to do that,” Picard said.
Combined, Cornerstone and the Neighborhood House serve nearly 10,000 clients across Morris County and beyond, with a staff of about 150 and a budget of around $5.5 million.
The Nabe had amassed about $700,000 of debt prior to the tie-up, Cornerstone officials said at the time. Fiscal health was restored by the merger, Picard said.
She expects the Elm Street sale will ensure continued stability at a time when government funding is flat.
“As our families are struggling, the need for services–especially child care, after-school care and workforce care–is continuing to grow,” said Picard.
Morristown’s real estate market is a double-edged sword, of course. Cornerstone now must find affordable property near the Neighborhood House in Morristown’s Second Ward.
That area has not benefited from the town’s boom times as much as other neighborhoods. But redevelopers have erected hundreds of pricey apartment units in the vicinity.
“We could serve more kids if we had more room there,” Picard said. “The challenge is we need to stay in that neighborhood.”