Q Center studies possible purchase of Mississippi building

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

Photo by Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

Portland’s Q Center is considering purchasing the Mississippi Avenue warehouse it has occupied since 2009 before its lease-to-own agreement expires in February 2013. But before it launches an estimated $2.3 million fundraising campaign, the LGBTQ community center is soliciting feedback through a feasibility and planning study.

Barbara McCullough-Jones, the center’s executive director, says she hopes the study will provide a “path to success” for a short-term, high-stakes campaign that would allow Q Center to remain at a location it has already spent more than $350,000 renovating. It’s a space worth keeping, she says, because of its proximity to public transit, the flexibility of the property, and the opportunity for expansion. The 6,500 square-foot building is near major bus and Max lines and has the potential to grow to approximately 40,000 square feet.

The study, which launched on Q Center’s website in early August and will stay up through the end of September, seeks community input on issues including the financial goal, timing, strategic approach, potential leadership, and other concerns.

“The study was very thorough in soliciting community input. The depth of participation was very encouraging and showed appreciation for all Q Center does,” McCullough-Jones says. “The only discouraging news would be to hear folks weren’t interested in the process or outcome. I don’t think that will be the case.”

Though feedback is still trickling in, McCullough says the responses received so far indicate support for the purchase. If all goes well, Q Center will move forward with a multi-phase plan to raise the $2.3 million McCullough-Jones estimates will be needed to cover the $1.125 purchase price, inspections, maintenance, campaign costs, and a contingency fund.

“The first step is to design the campaign. Then the ‘quiet’ phase begins which is where the majority of the funds are raised,” McCullough-Jones says. “Usually during this phase there is little to no public information about the campaign. In part, the study results will inform our timeline.”

With just five months before the final lease extension runs out, Q Center’s fundraising campaign will likely have to compete with political fundraising efforts for the presidential race as well as for marriage equality in Washington and Oregon. McCullough-Jones says she’s aware of the challenges, but is confident Q Center will get by.

“Raising money in a nonprofit environment is always a challenge. We are very mindful of the external environment as it affects our fund development strategies,” she says.

While McCullough-Jones is hopeful that the goal will be met, the campaign plan will include a contingency plan to address a scenario in which the necessary funds are not raised.

“We have been successful at growing programs and services on a very lean budget,” she says. “We respect the resources we are entrusted to put to work for the community and will continue to create innovative ways to be of service.”

McCullough-Jones says more information about any potential plans will be available after the study has been completed and analyzed. The community input survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/XDB3ZB5. PQ will continue to follow this story and provide updates.