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Nov 28
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Purchasing a Building

2013 Shambhala Building, Seattle

2013 Shambhala Building, Seattle

COLUMN: Shambhala on the Move
A series about Shambhala Centers and Groups who are moving into new spaces or renovating their existing homes.

In this article, we hear a recent story from Seattle, Washington.

by Alan Ness, for the Building Committee, Seattle Shambhala Meditation Center

Let me start with a story:

I was out walking when I came across another Sangha member on a pleasant spring day. I had just been authorized by the council to begin the process of buying a building. I told her about this and excitedly started my fund-raising pitch. She said, “Did you send me a letter?” I said “No,” and continued. Again, she said, “Did you send me a letter?” Again I ignored her. After the 3rd time the message finally sunk in.

So, I started a letter writing campaign to the Sangha, making sure to include a self-addressed return envelope inside each one. In the end, we raised $75,000.00, mostly from letter writing, with some follow-up one-on-one meetings with selected donors. This result, from a sangha that could barely pay its rent a few years ago, was nothing less than astounding. The very idea must have had widespread appeal and magnetism.

At some point we started looking in earnest for a building with our $75,000.00 as down payment. We were restricted to the very bottom of the real estate market. During this process, our largest donor came forward and gave us an anonymous donation of $100.000.00. At that point we completely focused on finding a building and stopped all active fundraising, except for hanging some information and envelopes in the Center bulletin board.

We began looking for a house over a commercial building. We wanted to be as central as possible but avoid the high costs of commercial property.

Top 3 things we did right:

  • Being completely confident that this is the right thing to do.
  • Staying focused: I was not on the Council nor did I take any other significant responsibility at the Center during the 4 years of the process.
  • Let go of a Realtor that was not working well with us.
  • Top 3 things we did wrong:
    Hard to say. The greatest uncertainty I have is not getting our Sangha Feng Shui expert, Eva Wong, involved at the beginning. We hope to have her visit the building and get her advice for long term planning.

    2012 Aging Seminar, Seattle

    2012 Aging Seminar, Seattle

    How did we manage ownership and the mortgage?
    The local Center has no financial “muscle” (profitable record) to buy a building. It was bought by a group of guarantors, 6 households of 10 adults total, who will bring on the Center onto the title after the transaction is recorded. That is a bit of a gray area. The plan is to refinance the purchase without the guarantors as soon as possible, probably 6-10 years, after the principal has reached 45%. The bank should let the Center do that.

    Legally there were intense negotiations with Shambhala Lawyer Alex Halpern in Halifax by our local Seattle lawyer. The Center gains some kind of semi-independent legal status. Also, the guarantors are forming an LLC (non-profit) of their own to govern the rules in case of an actual emergency – dissolution of the local group. Otherwise we hope that there will be no active role for the guarantors, nor any liability put upon them.

    How long did it take?

    Five years altogether.

    Shambhala on the Move is a series about Shambhala Centers and Groups who are moving into new spaces or renovating their existing homes. Shambhala Times is delighted to connect Centers to the Shambhala Environments, a key resource for these transitions. The column is hosted by Maya Rook. Stay tuned for more articles unrolling in the coming months, and contact us if you have a story you’d like to share.

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    1 response to “ Purchasing a Building ”
    1. This is wonderful! I would love to see a report on how this was structured in detail ( it is fascinating and so creative). Thank you for sharing.

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