Bricks and mortar—or in this case, block and stucco: What really is it to us? A building, a home, an investment?
Some have been in the situation of determining the true life and usefulness of their fire stations or fire facilities or, in our own lives, our homes.
We’ve had to make decisions on the life of a fire truck: Is it time to replace? What does that replacement schedule say? How much are we now paying for repairs? How long does it stay in reserves?
The IAFC found itself in this same situation last year. After much discussion, it was determined that it was time to sell its headquarters building.
First a little history. Due to rising costs, the IAFC in 1992 moved its headquarters from 1329 18th Street NW in Washington to 4025 Fair Ridge Drive in Fairfax, Virginia—located about 24 miles west of the U.S. Capitol.
While the old building had served the association well for 16 years, the IAFC Board of Directors in 1991 determined that a better location for headquarters would be farther outside the D.C. area, but still close enough to meet with legislators and those who could help with priority issues of the IAFC and its members. The move had many advantages, including a less-expensive labor force. But the key at that time was ownership of a building.
The Fairfax property was purchased through a liquidation/forced sale that included approximately 20,000 square feet of usable space. It’s a three-story building that allowed for some growth and possible income if portions were rented out.
A great day was celebrated at Fire-Rescue International 2002. This was an event most people hope for with their own homes—the burning of the mortgage. Ours was a ceremonial burning, of course. The IAFC held in full a net asset that could achieve the current goals.
As time has passed, the building has continued to be depreciated through our accounting principles. Operating costs for the 26-year-old building are increasing. The real estate market in Northern Virginia has grown significantly. With all the changes, options had to be determined for the future of the building.
As issues were examined based on the present work the IAFC was doing for the membership along with the future work needed, the building had reached capacity in work space and parking was short by 22 spaces. Over the last few years, the IAFC staff has increased 50%, thanks primarily to new grants and industry-funded partnerships.
Options were reviewed to determine viability of renting space in another location versus purchasing a new building. The goal was a cost-effective solution to accommodate future growth of the association’s work to achieve its mission.
The costs of maintaining the present building were studied. With the costs that were mandatory in 2016 that would have to be expended in 2017, the IAFC was looking at a little over $1 million. This didn’t include the annual costs of approximately $367,000.
Staff began to review the options for the board of directors, including the possibility of selling and purchasing a new building, leasing growth space, leasing all work space, moving from the area, leasing parking space, etc.
Based on all the facts and considering all options, the decision became very clear. During my 2017 budget presentation, I recommended to the board that it was in the IAFC’s best short-term and long-term interest to sell our three-story office building in Fairfax and lease office space at another location.
Simply stated, the board agreed that continuing to own an aging, expensive-to-maintain building that the IAFC had outgrown was not advisable.
During 2017, the IAFC received a purchase offer, which included the option for the IAFC to lease back its present space until a move could be made into a new leased facility. Recently, the sale of the building closed and a new lease contract was finalized.
IAFC’s new headquarters will be located at 4795 Meadow Wood Lane, in Chantilly, Va. We’ll occupy almost 26,000 square feet of space, which is most of the first floor of the three-story building.
The interior space is being built out to our specifications. It will include a 2,000-square-foot conference center, multiple conference and huddle rooms, and a social hub area for continued collaboration. The conference center will enable the IAFC to host many meetings each year, which will reduce costs spent to book local area meeting space.
The new office space will allow for more functionality of productivity, more cost stability and predictability, and the flexibility for growth or downsizing as grant- and industry-partnership revenue increases or declines. The IAFC staff is excited about the new space and members are welcome to visit.
The IAFC will continue renting the current building from the new owner until early spring. At that time, we’ll move into our new location in Chantilly, which is located about six miles west of the current building. We’ve also worked out a sub-lease agreement with ESCI for space in the new building on the same floor, which will start at the same time.
As in 1992, this is an exciting time for the board of directors. We again come together for the betterment of our association by deciding to sell one of our net assets, while ensuring future workspace for staff and providing the best programs available to members.
The Fairfax building provided a wonderful home and workspace for the IAFC for the last 25 years, where so much work was accomplished for the membership and the fire and emergency service. Our mission to Lead, Educate and Serve continues full speed ahead.