Frequently Asked Questions About The Bar Center

By Scott M. Karson

Frequently Asked Questions About The Bar Center

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Who owns the Bar Center at One Elk Street?

The New York Bar Foundation is legal owner of the building. In 1969, the association transferred title of the Elk Street properties to the foundation in exchange for promissory notes, which were subsequently forgiven by the association. Initially, the foundation, as owner, paid for the maintenance and upkeep of the building, but was unable to keep up with the costs. Since the expansion of the Bar Center in 1990, the association has paid all rent, utilities, taxes, housekeeping, internal and external repairs for One Elk. The total cost to rent and maintain One Elk costs the association in excess of $1 million per year. The current lease expires Dec. 31, 2021.

Why is the association considering leaving One Elk?

The association is considering alternative space because its needs have changed, and it can no longer absorb the costs of ownership of a building that it does not own. One Elk is about 60,000 square feet of total space. Prior to the pandemic, the association had downsized from about 125 to 89 employees and was only using about half of the available space. Thanks to the vision of past leadership, the association has increased its use of technology so that staff can work remotely and seamlessly. Looking to the future, the association believes that it can attract more diverse and experienced staff if it incorporates remote working for certain positions. It is estimated that the association needs about 25,000 square feet of facilities space to be fully functional. In addition to the costs of renting and maintaining One Elk, the association has obtained outside consultants who advise that substantial renovations will be required to keep One Elk viable as the long-term home of the association, at an estimated cost in excess of $4.5 million over the next 3 years.

Will it cost more to leave than to stay?

No, the cost savings if the association were to move to suitable space in downtown Albany are substantial. The association’s finance committee estimates the cost of remaining at One Elk under current lease terms, including the cost of renovations, will be about $18 million over the next 10 years. The cost of renting space suitable for the association’s needs will be about $7.5 million over that same time. The association stands to save about $10 million over the next decade if it moves.

Will new space be comparable to One Elk?

No, nothing is comparable to One Elk. The new facilities space will likely be in a class A office space in downtown Albany, sufficient to house all of the association staff, with meeting rooms for 20 to 30 people and a large conference room to house at least 50 people sitting for a CLE program and almost 100 standing for a reception. More than 90% of association CLE programs and meetings need to accommodate fewer than 50 people, so the association will be able to host substantially all the meetings and programs it hosted pre-pandemic. Meetings in excess of 100 people, like the House of Delegates which meets in Albany 2 times per year, will have to be outsourced.

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