CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte announced several developments and upcoming changes, including the drop of its current lease, in an update to members and supports on Tuesday.
The center has been working to re-organize and re-structure following several months of scrutiny and dwindling support. The group has suffered from concerns over leadership and board accountability challenges, a lack of transparency and financial hardships. Earlier this year, the center’s leadership said it could close. At the beginning of June, the center had just $650 cash on hand and owed as much as $7,000 in outstanding federal and state payroll taxes for a single employee who was later laid off.
New board members, including several appointed last month, have worked to reassure supporters and donors of new efforts toward transparency and accountability. Leaders were able to tighten some expenses, including a temporary reduction in monthly lease payments, and have attempted to consistently communicate center updates with members and supporters.
In their latest update to the community, the center says it will drop its current lease at 2508 N. Davidson St. effective Jan. 1, 2015. Until then, the building — some 4,500 square feet of office, meeting and general purpose space — will be shared with CrossFit Surgo, a gym currently located on Plaza Midwood’s Central Ave.
“The Crossfit gym will pay the facility rent for the Center each month until January 1, 2015,” the message to supporters from center Chair Ranzeno Fraizer reads. “As of January 1, 2015 the lease for the Center will not be renewed. The Center lease agreement was originally at $3,500. We do not think it is within the best interest for the future of the Center to rent any space at that amount.”
In the remaining months of the year, the center said it will be “searching for new property that will meet the needs of our community and assist in developing the future Center.”
The arrangement with the gym will mean slight changes for the center’s operations. The first floor of the building, previously used for large meetings and events, will be reserved for the use of the gym. The center will operate on the building’s second floor, which includes three meeting rooms, a small kitchen and restrooms. Center meetings and events will be asked to adjust their start times to 7:30 p.m. each evening. Additionally, Crossfit Surgo has agreed to remain closed on Sundays to allow Unity Fellowship Church of Charlotte to continue using the space for their Sunday worship services.
“The board struggled with this decision and felt that this was the best option at this time to assist the Center get ahead and plan a better future,” Frazier’s update reads. “The Board is focused on improving relationships in the community and becoming the primary resource of information in our LGBT community and for those in the city of Charlotte that support us.”
The agreement with the gym includes special rates for center members.
“As the Center reconstructs our mission, vision and goals, we have agreed that healthy living has a major impact on individuals, families, and our entire community,” Frazier said. “This partnership with Cross Fit opens the door to a desire for our community to promote a healthy lifestyle. We have also worked out special pricing with the gym and members of the Center.”
Additionally, the center continues to search for new board members. Priority, they said, will be given to those applying for the treasurer’s position. Board applications can be found on the center’s website or in person at the center.
The center moved into it’s NoDa space in January 2013. At the time, leaders said the space offered far more space for nearly the same amount of rent being paid at its former NC Music Factory location. Former board Chair Roberta Dunn had defended the NoDa lease earlier this year, despite calls then for the organization to decrease operating costs. Since then, new center leaders had been able to temporarily reduce their monthly lease payments.
The center’s occupancy costs have run high over the past several years. In 2008, 48 percent of their total yearly expenses went toward occupancy fees. That amount jumped up to 59-60 percent from 2009 through 2011. According to the center’s most recent financial disclosure, it paid $41,580 for occupancy in 2012, or about 49 percent of that year’s total expenses.
It’s unclear what will happen to the center’s remaining source of significant funding. In June, the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund said it was providing conditional funding of $3,000 from a nearly $20,000 grant awarded to the center this year. Fund leaders said they would “withhold payment of the remaining funds until certain financial and governance best practices have been established. The balance of the funds originally recommended by the stakeholders are being held pending those outcomes.”
The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund’s chair and vice chair, Jeremiah Nelson and Steve Bentley, said their group is planning to meet with center leaders for further discussion on Sept. 8.
As the center changes and transforms, Frazier said the group was still committed to re-organization and regaining community trust.
“The Board will continue to strive to regain the trust in our community and build a better, stronger Center for everyone,” Frazier wrote.