The Community Fund of Darien will be changing locations come May 1, leaving behind the Post Road location that has served as the organization’s home for 35 years.
Executive Director Carrie Bernier announced the move on the organization’s website and Facebook page last week. The Community Fund has agreed to a two-year lease with Office Suites of Darien at Old Kings Highway South. Their lease at 701 Post Road, a town owned building, expired in January. On Monday the Board of Selectmen voted in favor of keeping the lease terms intact until April 30.
Based off statements from Bernier and First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, The Community Fund chose to seek a new location rather than investing in costly repairs for the Post Road building. As a part of the leasing agreement, the organization was to be responsible for all capital improvements.
“We realized that the costs to renovate this 200-year-old house would be far too high and time-consuming to justify on a rental property that no longer meets all our needs,” Bernier wrote on The Community Fund website.
The Community Fund first entered into its lease agreement with the town in 1979 and was able to convert the historic house into office space with the help of a grant from Exxon. While the space still retains decades of memories and Darien history, Bernier said the needs of the organization have outgrown its home. She explained that The Community Fund would rather use donor funds in support of their mission, instead of on building maintenance.
Last year, The Community Fund awarded more than $660,000 in grants to local nonprofits and programs in Darien, Stamford and Norwalk. In addition to offering grants to other nonprofits in need, TCF helps organize and sponsor programs within the town. Youth advocacy and support continues to be a central priority for the organization.
The Community Fund plans to hold a farewell party at the 701 Post Road house in late April and on May 19, the organization will celebrate its 65 anniversary by welcoming back board members and volunteers for a special event.
During Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Stevenson said The Community Fund was expected to notify the town of their decision to leave the lease one year in advance. According to the First Selectmen, the town had been in the process of negotiation the lease’s renewal over the last few months but a compromise couldn’t be reached. However, given the organization’s history of partnership with the town, the closing terms were made agreeable.
“The Community Fund of Darien is an excellent community partner and because we want to maintain a great working relationship with them, I’m going to recommend to the town that we allow them to get out of their lease on April 30th and pay a prorated share of their annual rent,” Stevenson said.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously supported the motion and The Community Fund will be required to pay a prorated rent of $1,861.04 for its remaining time on Post Road. Bernier thanked the town for being great landlords and doing their best to accommodate the organization.
The 701 Post Road property shares a parking lot with the Old Town Hall Houses, which are expected to undergo major re-development later this year. OTHH will be an affordable senior living facility operated by the Darien Housing Authority, a state agency. Selectmen Marc Thorne suggested the Post Road property could be of use to the DHA due its proximity to the upcoming project.
“It seems to me that property would be very helpful to Old Town Hall Homes renovation,” Thorne said.
However, Stevenson and Town Administrator Kate Buch said the town is exploring alternative uses for the space. The building lies in a historical zone, and may be protected from demolition or other major structural changes.