FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media contact: Sarah Haun, Van Alen Institute: firstname.lastname@example.org, 212 924 7000 x12
VAN ALEN INSTITUTE SELLS 30 WEST 22ND STREET BUILDING Having Outgrown its Ground Floor Storefront, the Design Not-for-Profit Rebalances its Investment Portfolio to Advance Mission; Will Seek New Headquarters Location in NYC
New York, NY (December 4, 2018)‑‑Van Alen Institute announces the sale of 30 West 22nd Street, the building in the Flatiron District that the organization has owned, occupied, and operated as a landlord since the 1980s. Van Alen’s Board of Trustees and leadership made the decision to sell the 30 West 22nd Street property with the help of a number of real estate experts, not-for-profit advisors, and financial consultants. The sale closed on November 28, 2018 after a full year of strategy and planning.
“Van Alen Institute’s robust financial position, dramatic organizational growth, and ever-evolving program offerings led us to reconsider the usefulness of our continued role as owner of the West 22nd Street property,” said Jared Della Valle, CEO of Alloy Development and Van Alen’s Board Chair. “The sale allows us to focus and expand on VAI’s core purpose without the distractions of being a commercial landlord, and strengthens our already significant endowment so we can carry on Van Alen’s mission for the next 125 years.”
“Van Alen’s talented staff are the architects of some of the best programs and events in design,” said Elissa Black, Interim Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “The ability to relieve the organization of the limitations imposed by our current physical space and landlord responsibilities will allow the creative team at the Institute to better focus on expanding our geographically dispersed public programs, interdisciplinary research, and renowned design competitions.”
“Van Alen has been uncommonly diligent and methodical in its decision to turn a real estate asset into a resource that gives the organization broad geographic and programmatic flexibility,” said Evan Kingsley of Plan A Advisors, the management consulting firm that guided Van Alen’s planning process around the sale. “The Board and staff took the long view and asked: what impact do we want to have on our field, and what will it take to achieve it?”
Changing Organization and Programs
In recent years, Van Alen Institute has grown as an organization and its programming has evolved considerably. With its roots in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning, Van Alen now looks beyond these professions to collaborate across disciplines and explore design as a tool to transform cities and improve people’s lives. Van Alen no longer hosts exhibitions or runs a bookstore, but is doing more geographically dispersed public programs, interdisciplinary research, and design competitions. The ground floor space it presently occupies is no longer adequate to support its staff or program audiences. The organization has been located elsewhere in New York City in the past and intends to purchase a new home in the city in the future.
In the near term, Van Alen will continue to be located at 30 West 22nd Street. A leaseback option is part of the sale agreement and allows the organization to stay in its current location while it fine-tunes its go-forward strategy and the corresponding space needed to advance its mission.
Further Advancing the Mission
By disposing of its responsibilities as a commercial landlord and eliminating the distractions of property management, the Institute can more effectively fulfill its mission. Van Alen’s staff had been spending an increasing portion of their workday dealing with property management issues which, while essential, redirected important resources to activities outside of fulfilling Van Alen’s core purpose.
Unique Real Estate Market Conditions
As the Board, leadership and staff came to realize that the organization was outgrowing its current space, they also recognized that the building happens to be in a neighborhood that has appreciated faster than any other in New York City due to the increase in occupancy by the TAMI (technology, advertising, media, and information) industries. As such, the price that an investor was willing to pay for the building with an eye to future revenue far exceeded Van Alen’s actual income from rents, making it a sound financial decision.
Long-Term Financial Health and Opportunity
Van Alen’s financial health has improved dramatically in recent years. The Institute has expanded its staff as well as its domestic and international partnerships. It has increased its network of advisers and funders and enjoys the support of a more widespread and diverse group of patrons than ever before.
Looking to build on its current financial strength and momentum, early in the year the decision-makers reviewed the Institute’s investment portfolio which was heavily skewed toward real estate. They concluded that a rebalancing of assets was in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization. In addition to eventually reinvesting in a different space in New York, Van Alen will increase its endowment, making it even more stable, nimble, and better able to plan for the future.
About Van Alen Institute
At Van Alen, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow. Building on more than a century of experience, we develop cross-disciplinary research, provocative public programs, and inventive design competitions. For more information, please visit www.vanalen.org.