Column: Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation signs 50-year lease for Rhodes Hall

By Maria Saporta
Friday, October 28, 2011

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has preserved its own home for the next five decades.

“We just signed a new 50-year lease with the state of Georgia for Rhodes Hall,” said Mark McDonald, president and CEO of the Georgia Trust. “We have been here since 1983, but we hadn’t had a lease for the last three years.”

Rhodes Hall was built in 1904 as the original residence of Rhodes Furniture founder Amos Rhodes at 1516 Peachtree St. in Midtown. Today, it is a historic house museum that doubles as the headquarters for the Georgia Trust.

“Our board made a concerted finding that this is a building we want to stay in,” McDonald said. “We asked the state for a lease. After about a year of negotiations, we now have a new lease. Gov. Nathan Deal signed it earlier this month.”

McDonald said the Georgia Trust pays $10 a month in rent to the state, and the organization is responsible for all the castle-like building’s upkeep and maintenance.

“We have agreed to take some additional responsibilities off the taxpayer,” McDonald said. “The Georgia Trust is going to undergo some fundraising to make improvements to the building.”

The organization also has applied for a green grant from Southface to make the historic home more energy efficient.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Trust has been putting its own financial house in order.

“Our board and staff committed ourselves to becoming a sustainable organization,” McDonald said. “We preach preservation so we need to be able to be an organization that’s going to be here for another 100 years.”

Despite a sour economy, the Georgia Trust had a $113,000 surplus for its fiscal year ending March 31, 2010; $55,000 surplus for the year ending March 31, 2011; and McDonald said it is on track to have another surplus during this fiscal year.

The Georgia Trust also has a revolving fund aimed at preserving, restoring and then selling historically significant properties. It recently has sold one of its holdings in Adel, Ga., and that money has been returned to its revolving fund. It currently has five properties available for sale.

“We are doing very well,” McDonald said. “The only way for a nonprofit to do well financially is to keep a focus on it.”

A warm thank you

When Wells Fargo & Co.’s CEO John Stumpf spoke at the Atlanta Press Club on Oct. 24, it gave Jeff Sprecher an opportunity to say thank you in person.

Sprecher, founder of IntercontinentalExchange Inc. (ICE), introduced Stumpf before the luncheon speech.

“Normally capital doesn’t like to take risks,” Sprecher said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Wells Fargo. They have done five major financings for us. They have helped us all through the economic downturn at increasingly more sophisticated and greater levels.”

ICE has had a relationship with Wachovia/Wells Fargo for the past decade, and the bank stood by the exchange during its hostile takeover attempt of the New York Stock Exchange.

Sprecher said he founded ICE about a decade ago with only his “checkbook.”

Last year, the exchange crossed the $1 billion revenue mark and has about 1,000 employees.

As the second-largest exchange in the United States, Atlanta-based ICE has a market capitalization of $9.2 billion. By comparison, the NYSE has a market cap of $6.8 billion.

Sprecher said that Georgia actually is home to an exchange that is more valuable than the NYSE.

Hands on Atlanta

For several years, the Points of Light Institute/Hands On Network and Hands On Atlanta have been co-located in a shared 40,000-square-foot building just off Marietta Street.

Now they are swapping positions as Hands On Atlanta has gone from being the landlord to being a renter, and vice versa.

Hands On Atlanta actually incubated the national organization for many years — providing free office space to the Hands On Network as it grew from one staff person to a much larger organization as it merged with the Points of Light Institute.

The unique arrangement between two organizations permitted them to share the synergies and efficiencies of space.

It also led to “a dynamic interchange between Points of Light Institute’s national efforts and the local touchstone of Hands On Atlanta,” according to a statement released by both organizations.

Earlier in October, Hands On Atlanta sold the 40,000-square-foot building to the Points of Light Institute.

“The sale solidifies Atlanta as the national headquarters for the Points of Light Institute,” according to the statement. “The evolution of both organizations makes this a natural step. The milestone is marked with the hope that the space will continue to allow both organizations to flourish.”

Clark Atlanta

Clark Atlanta University is being recognized as a “community resource zone” in the crusade to stop victims of dating and domestic violence by the Atlanta City Council.

Clark Atlanta held its second annual “The Call to True Beauty Day” campaign with a full week of events that culminated on Oct. 21.

The weeklong series was sponsored by Avon Products and Verizon Wireless, two corporate leaders in the cause. Avon also is funding $20,000 in gap scholarships for 10 Clark Atlanta students; and Verizon provided a $50,000 graduate fellowship in 2010 to establish the Verizon Wireless Domestic Violence Prevention Leadership Academy.

Also, Fonda Kay Smith, a radio personality, received the “Survivor of the Year” award, disclosing her own story of domestic abuse.

And Harold Watkins received the “Advocate of the Year” award for his 29-year career with Avon Products and his dedication to providing opportunities

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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