Update from Relo Team

On Saturday, January 19, the Relocation Team hosted an open forum to provide information and receive feedback on our activities to date, as well as options for going forward. This is a summary of that forum.

What We’ve Accomplished: Since its formation in late 2016, the Relo Team has been working to find a new location for the Portland Shambhala Center to gather. The need was driven by our growth in membership; our diversity of programs, gatherings, and group meetings; and a potential significant increase in rent in our current location. Here are some of the things we’ve done in the past two years:

  • Town Meetings: We held several town hall style forums to identify what we preferred in a new space. We heard that you wanted an accessible, good Eastside location including public transportation, with multiple-use spaces, a kitchen, about 3,500 square feet.
  • Resources: We engaged multiple individuals and organizations for information and assistance in making a move. These include several individuals in property management and development (Alan Ameche, Seattle Shambhala member; Peter Michaelson, Portland developer), Realtors who know our market (Chris Bonner, Mary Brown), and financial resource specialists and strategists (Shambhala Credit Union, Beneficial State Bank, Connie Brock and Julie Kaija of Shambhala International finance).
  • Research: We have explored multiple options for purchase, including buying land and either building or purchasing a modular building; purchasing and renovating an existing structure; and purchasing a facility with other organizations in a “condo-ized” fashion (where co-owners each purchase a portion of a building). Properties we’ve considered include:
    • Carnegie Library Building, our current location
    • The Sellwood church, a small facility near Tacoma Blvd
    • Belmont mansion, a potential remodel on upper SE Belmont
    • Lighthouse Mission Church at 47th and Glisan
    • Betezda Romanian Church at  47th and Stark
    • 8805 NE Glisan church
  • What We Learned: Buying property as a non-profit religious institution is a complex process. City permits, zoning and taxes play a big role in what we are allowed to construct or renovate. Incorporating needed improvements or renovations into an existing facility can add a significant cost to the total price. Engaging the community early and often – through meetings, viewings, and surveys – provides crucial information about members’ investment in a property. Finally, ongoing engagement and networking with other groups can provide us with options that we may not otherwise have known about.
  • Practical Steps: To date, we have prepared the Portland Shambhala Center to make a property purchase by accomplishing the following tasks:
    • We engaged Shambhala International to help us complete feasibility analyses on our purchasing capacity
    • We structured a Capital Campaign Plan plan based on research and other Centers’ experiences including early financial commitments
    • We incorporated the Portland Shambhala Center as a 501(c)(3) stand alone non-profit to make financing and holding title easier
    • We applied for and received conditional approval for a loan from Beneficial State Bank
    • We engaged a Realtor, Mary Brown, who has expertise in properties for religious organizations; we continue to retain her assistance in the search process

 

Our Current Situation: Several things have happened in the past year that have impacted our ability to move forward with a relocation effort:

  • Clergy Sexual Misconduct: The Buddhist Project Sunshine reports released in 2018 sparked an investigation into clergy sexual misconduct on the part of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, as well as other teachers and leaders involved in Shambhala International. The impact of this was felt locally in the form of canceled memberships, reductions in giving, decreased program enrollments, and an overall decrease in our community’s lungta.
  • PSMC Finances: We have had a significant reduction in income from our programs due to lack of attendance. This has been partially offset by increased giving through our end-of-year fundraising, however we still face an overall reduction compared to previous years. But we know that depending on fundraising gifts isn’t a sustainable model, nor does it reflect accurately what the center’s greater population can and is willing to support.
  • Property Value Increases in the City of Portland have continued to grow at rates that outpace our ability to purchase within our desired eastside area.
  • Uncertainty About Our Current Situation: Because we have had a good long-term relationship with our landlord, he has maintained our rent well below market rate for many years. However, due to market pressures and his desire to sell the building, he has recently instituted a rent increase and encouraged us to sign a longer-term lease that will protect us in case ownership of the building changes. At the request of the Relo Team, the PSMC Governing Council is considering a one-year lease of $3000 a month for our space, a change from our month-to-month rent of $2500 per month.

 

What We Heard From You: At the forum, members and friends present provided the following useful feedback about our options for going forward in our relocation efforts:

  • Are we ready to make a purchase? The ReLo team and the sangha members present shared concern both for the rising costs of purchase in the Portland area, as well as for the decreased lungta in our community right now. Moving forward with a purchase requires not just a financial commitment from the community  (i.e., increased participation in fundraising, donations, and membership dues) but also a commitment of time, energy, and passion. Because the financial and social aspects are linked, it seems that addressing both simultaneously is necessary before purchasing a facility.
  • Should we find a new rental space? Participants in the forum had ideas for using our existing space in a way that might reduce costs and provide greater stability. Could we sublet our existing space to add income? Could we ask for a two year lease? Could we forge better connections with our existing affinity groups and partners to build a greater commitment to our current space? On the other hand, you also indicated interest in exploring a shared arrangement with like-minded or compatible organizations that might reduce our overall rent and facilitate a longer-term commitment to fundraising for property in the future.
  • Some takeaways for further action:
    • Strengthening the community is necessary, both financially and socially. Having a strong commitment to the Shambhala vision goes hand in hand with an increased financial commitment. At the same time, there is diversity about levels of support for the local community vs Shambhala USA. This will continue to require discussion and negotiation moving forward.
    • Our core group of committed members (about 110 people) are the “energy center” of our organization. Supporting them in their path and practice is crucial to increasing the lungta of the whole center.
    • Building connections within our center – between PSMC and groups like Queer Dharma, Young Meditators, Aging in Enlightened Society – could help strengthen our overall capacity for a move of some sort. There were questions about why and how the YMR became separate, and an exploratory discussion about what we could do to bring them into the ‘mainstream’ of PSMC. A discussion about the YMR renting the space for their meetings sparked comments about whether they could afford it, and whether it was a desirable approach. Intentional outreach to YMR will likely be needed to build an ongoing relationship.
    • Taking a “long view” regarding a purchase – we may not be able to purchase into an ideal situation in the short term, but could purchase a “starter home” that would provide equity for a more significant purchase later on. Also, fundraising over multiple years while reducing our internal costs could allow us to make a purchase at some point.

 

Thanks to our community for the opportunity to serve you! Please reach out to us through our communications chair, Mark Douglass, at mark.douglass@portland.shambhala.org if you have further questions or concerns, or if you would like to lend time and energy toward our relocation efforts.

 

With gratitude,

Jay Stewart, Facilitator

Mark Douglass, Communication

Jack Bodner and David Parker, Finance and Fundraising

Bettina Hetz and Doug McCanne, Research and Planning

 

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