Third Street Center

In 2007 a group of Carbondale, Colorado residents had a vision that an empty elementary school building could become a dynamic community resource filled with artist studios, social service offices, and meeting space for organizations, businesses, neighbdorhood groups and environmentalists of all kinds. With the town’s vision and ongoing support, a broad partnership grew that included a local developer, an architect, a community development corporation, a local bank, and a social entrepreneurship fund. Rather than start from scratch, this group decided to see if anyone else had tried this idea and what they could learn from them.

They found The NonprofitCenters Network (NCN), a program Tides created to support community leaders with expertise on creating and operating social-purpose real estate.  They became members of this unique peer-learning community, taking advantage of online training, consulting, mentoring, and resources.  That led them to attend a catalyzing event –  Building Opportunities: The Nonprofit Shared Space and Services Conference.

2011 is the 10th year that NCN and its partners across the U.S. and Canada will hold this dynamic biennial international forum.  Starting with a list of just eight multi-tenant facilities in 2001, the initial conference has grown into an ongoing network of over 3,000 nonprofit and philanthropic leaders and professionals from the financial, real estate, and public sectors. Building Opportunities is now the largest event in North America dedicated to creating and managing shared nonprofit workspace, administrative services, technology, and programs with more th­an 35 practical workshops, networking sessions, and inspirational discussions.  Most of all it has become a movement of local leaders passionate about creating the infrastructure they need to support and sustain healthy, vibrant communities.

The concepts of collaborative nonprofit centers and shared services have gained great momentum in these challenging economic times. Nonprofits want to work more effectively and efficiently. When given successful models, the opportunity to learn from peers and professionals that support their missions, and visionary support from funders and investors, they can do amazing things.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, a group of human services organizations credit their increased effectiveness and the ability to thrive even in this challenging economy to the shared facilities, finance, human resources, and IT services they have created at the Children and Family Services Center.  In Denver the double LEED-certified Alliance Center has assembled nonprofits focused broadly on sustainability who have worked together to support passage of over 95 pieces of state legislation advancing sustainability in just two years.  In San Francisco, Plaza Adelante helps families and whole communities overcome barriers to prosperity by providing recent Latino immigrants with direct services and asset development programs in one place. Others, like Tides, are scaling up their successful models in places like Washington, Ohio and Ontario by replicating their facilities and shared services within a region or even across the country.

Tides is proud to play an instrumental role in organizing and facilitating a community leading the nonprofit sector into 21st century models of collaborative operations. Join us at Building Opportunities May 9-11 in Los Angeles as we focus on What Works—the time- and money-saving tools, insights, and practical know-how that local leaders need to create and maintain successful mission-enhancing spaces and services. We will present the findings of a major new impact study, sponsored by The Kresge Foundation and The Lodestar Foundation, that will provide the first data-driven assessment of the impacts of shared nonprofit workspaces.

Happily, Carbondale’s Third Street Center opened its doors in 2010 with 38 tenants, a successful $1.875 million capital campaign and an award for green design. Learn from their success story, along with hundreds of others, at Building Opportunities 2011.