USES to Examine Future of Real Estate Holdings at Community Meeting

By Seth Daniel

The United South End Settlements (USES) is preparing to examine its real estate holdings in the South End as part of its year-long reorganization process, and they will bring the discussion to the community in a meeting on Monday, Sept. 18, at the Harriet Tubman House.

“During our Strategic Planning Process, we decided we needed to examine our real estate because of the cost of our real estate,” said CEO Maichairia Weir Lytle. “To keep the doors open for all our programs is about $600,000 to operate. To bring them from inadequate condition to adequate conditions is going to involve a multi-million dollar construction project. They need new roofs, HVAC systems and electrical work. It is significant money to keep buildings operational.”

The burning question, obviously, in such a hot real estate market is whether they would sell the properties, and those being considered for change do include the Rutland Street addresses. Lytle said they aren’t so high on the idea of selling.

“We’re looking at different options, but I would say we’re staying away from the word ‘sell,’” she said.

Some of the options she said would be to enter into a ground lease with another organization that could turn underutilized space into new revenues. Also, there is the option of re-purposing the properties for other uses.

Lytle told the Sun that the organization has been doing a top to bottom reorganization of its programs and mission over the last year – which is their anniversary year. The refined mission of USES to support families and disrupt the cycle of poverty in the neighborhood debuted in April, and with that the organization wants to take a look at its real estate to perhaps help bring the finances back out of the red.

Currently, the organization owns the Tubman House on the corner of Massachusetts and Columbus Avenue, and also two smaller properties on Rutland Street – #36 (Children’s Art Center) and #48 (South End House). The organization also owns a huge tract of land in New Hampshire for a summer camp, but that isn’t within the discussion.

Last June, the organization hired consultants Utile and Traggorth to do a feasibility study and quick-look at their property in Boston.

“In late June we brought on the consultants to conduct a feasibility study of the Boston properties,” she said. “From there, we formed a committee of people with real estate experience to help us navigate the planning stage and to vet the different information we  got from the consultants. We want to make sure we cross the t’s and dot the i’s.”

At this point, she said, they are in the planning stages and that is why they are taking their findings to the community to learn what neighbors and clients are thinking.

“We’re in the process of exploring what might make the most sense for us and something we hope to make a decision on later in 2017,” Lytle said.

The community meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Sept. 18 in the Harriet Tubman House, corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Columbus Avenue, South End.

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