Mensa on the Move
(Updated Nov. 26, 2018)
Over the past year, a joint committee comprising leadership from the Mensa Foundation and American Mensa has been working to determine the future office space needs for both organizations.
Our current building — built in 1984 and purchased by the Foundation for $425,000 in 1998 — has 8,475 square feet of usable space, sits on just under a half-acre, and includes 12 parking spots. However, some major repairs are needed to bring it up to current operating codes. There also are potential needs for both organizations to use current space differently than in the past, which the current building will not accommodate.
In May 2018, the committee recommended, and the Mensa Foundation board approved, putting the building up for sale. An offer was received shortly after the Annual Gathering in July, and that offer was approved to accept. The sale price almost doubled the Foundation’s initial investment, on top of rent collections, over the past 20 years.
Both organizations will be vacating the current location in December 2018. Staff and the committee are working on short- and long-term solutions for both organizations. The focus is to stay in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area and to stay within current budgeted costs for leasing space.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the building sale and future move. If you have questions not addressed in the FAQ, please direct them to our Foundation Director.
How can I contact the National Office after the move?
Beginning Dec. 15, 2018, all physical mail will need to be sent to our temporary address at:1200 E Copeland Rd. Ste 550
Arlington, TX 76011-1344
All of our website and email addresses will remain the same, and you’ll still be able to reach us by phone — from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday — at (817) 607-0060 or (888) 294-8035 (toll free).
What were the issues that led to considering the sale of the building?
Despite improvements and upkeep to the building at 1229 Corporate Drive West in Arlington, the Mensa Foundation and American Mensa both realized they were at a crossroads in terms of what to do next. Specifically, it was a matter of required updates and renovations and operational challenges:
- Renovations: AC units were replaced in 1999/2000 and costs added to American Mensa’s rent, as per the lease agreement. Those 18-year-old units will need to be replaced again within a year or two. The roof was replaced in 1999 and again in 2012 (insurance covered due to hail damage); it still requires improvements. Other improvements include an exterior paint job in 2011 (paid for by the Foundation) and carpet replacements (costs added to American Mensa’s rent through an addendum to lease agreement).
- Operational Challenges: Space constraints prohibit the building from being used for American Mensa Committee meetings (and the Foundation is getting close to the same situation), requiring additional costs for AMC meeting space elsewhere. Additionally, the current office space has been maxed-out for staff and storage; as growth happens for either American Mensa or the Foundation, we would have nowhere to place new personnel or storage. Another current challenge is parking — spaces are leased from the building next door to accommodate staff and visitors. Lastly, current space did not allow for options such as remote working for staff or other future needs.
What other events led to discussing the building sale?
If we were to continue in the same building, the challenges mentioned above would need to be addressed in the budget by the Foundation and American Mensa. (The necessary adjustments were estimated to cost more than $250,000.)
The sale and search for a new building can be a time-consuming process, plus the Foundation needed to be prepared for future opportunities. (Most buildings of similar status in the metro-D/FW area are usually on the market for 200+ days.)
The current building, owned outright by the Mensa Foundation, was estimated to price for $60-$80 per square foot as is. Estimating a sale at $70 per square foot would yield a sale price of $593,250, an approximate net profit of $168,250.
With that in mind, a joint committee was established to gather information and vet options. The joint committee was made up of the Mensa Foundation President and Treasurer; the American Mensa Committee Chair and Treasurer; the Executive Director and Mensa Foundation Director; and American Mensa’s Director of Finance. This committee started its work in October 2017, and in May 2018 made the recommendation to the Foundation Board of Trustees to put the building on the market.
What were the primary options and scenarios explored by the committee?
- Put the current building up for sale and locate to another property (to purchase) that fits our joint needs.
- Stay in the current building with a plan to make necessary repairs and explore how to ensure space is maximized and efficient for both organization’s needs.
What are the details of the sale?
Foundation trustees voted at the May 2018 meeting to list the building on the market after receiving the recommendation from the Building Committee, which had explored the topic since October 2017. As mentioned, the following assumptions/expectations were made going into listing it on market:
- Most buildings in the metro of similar status are on the market for 200+ days.
- The building, owned outright, was estimated to price at $60-$80 per square foot. (A sale at $70 per square foot would yield $593,250 approximately $168,250 in net profit.)
In reality, the building was listed in June 2018 at $100 per square foot, for a total asking price of $847,500.
On July 9, a potential buyer asked to view the space. On July 10, the buyer made an offer in the ballpark of our asking price. Consultation with our realtor proved that this was a sound offer. The realtor was as surprised as we were on the timeliness and amount of the offer; both were not within expectations as compared to our optimistic hopes.
With an offer in hand, there was a window in which we had to respond. Foundation Trustees voted on July 18 to accept the offer. On July 26, the inspection was complete, and the concerns noted above regarding 1229 Corporate Drive West were all found to be true; the buyer did not request any adjustments or changes to the building or asking price. Final documents were signed, and sale completed on Sept. 13.
The net investment outcomes on this property are:
- Original purchase price: $425,000.
- Sale price: $800,000.
- Return on investment from sale: $375,000.
- Additionally, the Foundation received rent from American Mensa for 20 years that was not included in that return.
- The sale price doesn’t reflect the commissions due to the realtor as part of the standard process.
What will the Foundation do with the proceeds of the sale?
The Foundation has expressed interest in re-investing those funds in a new space that is reflective of the brand and image of both the Mensa Foundation and American Mensa. The building committee is continuing efforts to identify a property that meets the outlined needs. Once a property is identified, a vetting process will occur through the Building Committee, with the Foundation Board voting on the recommendation before an offer is made. The plan is to stay within the D/FW metro area in a location that is in a growing area that would provide a return on investment if the Foundation chose to sell again.
What will happen to the Walk of Minds bricks purchased?
The bricks will accompany us to the new long-term space and will be displayed in a manner dependent on that space.
What are the next steps?
American Mensa is working to identify a space for the next year that will allow it to carry on with its needs and minimize any interruptions to members. (The Foundation will be included in the space because we want to continue our collaborative work.) American Mensa offices will remain in the current office and sublet from the new owner until Dec. 15, 2018. We’re currently in the process of identifying a one-year lease location within a five-mile radius of the current office, with an estimated move date of Dec. 1. The building committee is working to keep rent at or below the amount that was being charged under the Foundation lease arrangement. It’s important that we be budget conscious of this fact.
The Foundation is considering its next options. A potential building in the Arlington, Texas area has been identified as meeting the needs outlined above. Information is being gathered to determine if the Foundation is at a point to make an offer. Funding considerations include:
- One reasonable recommendation is to use the proceeds from the current sale to apply for a down payment, then get a loan for the balance required (if there is one) and the buildout needs of any space.
- No current funds in Foundation accounts have been identified to be used at this time. There could be development efforts in the future to help pay off the loan earlier than agreed to, but no details have been determined. We must have a building before those details can be worked out.
- Donor contributions are not and will not be used for the purchase of a building. Not only are many funds restricted, but the return from the sale also means there is not a reason to be tempted to consider that.
What are the other exploratory considerations?
The Relator that we have engaged has done a high-level square-foot assessment based on our needs (American Mensa’s and Foundation’s) and has identified that we would need 12,300ft², which includes space needed for on-site storage. The Realtor understands the nature of our operations regarding the Foundation board’s role in deciding this. The Realtor has completed a staff scatters assessment to aid us in determining which locations may impact staff retention and recruitment if we move to any of various directions in the metro area.
Goals — The next building that we occupy will be able to help us achieve the following goals:
- Create and foster a collaborative work environment.
- Be a space that our members and donors are proud to call their headquarters.
- Fulfill a goal to represent and promote our brand to outside partners.
- Have potential for future resell value to maximize investment.
- Have potential to add on to the building at a future point.
General — Following are general overall elements we are using when looking for a new building.
- The Foundation is considering owning/purchasing the next building. This is a sound investment strategy that has served the Foundation well over time. This is also the recommendation from the auditors who review our financials each year.
- We prefer a move-in-ready property but expect that some buildout may be needed to meet our needs. Our preference would be a building that would require a minimal amount of build out.
Location — We want to keep the following criteria in mind:
- Stay out of the major downtown areas of Dallas and Fort Worth.
- Be located close to either (or both) the D/FW and Dallas Love airports.
- Be located near a major highway for ease of access to staff, visitors, and deliveries.
- Be located near suitable business hotels.
- Ideal locations would be in the following areas in Texas: Arlington, Irving, or Grapevine. We are open to considering other options that meet the other recommended criteria.