Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Space...an expanding frontier

The building permits went up yesterday on our office building on Roeder Road.

So, it's happened again.  For the sixth time in eleven years, PHA has filled its space and is getting ready to deal with it.
Our Maryland history started out on my family's porch in 1999.  It took a very short time for Laura, my wife, to point out our space limits there.  Then, we went to Silver Spring Avenue where we grew to a staff of five part-timers with three desks and four chairs.  I knew it was time to leave the 400 sq. ft. and roaches behind when all five staff were in at the same time one day and one of them was working from his laptop sitting on a box of brochures

I remember an early visit one day from board members Linda Carr and Judy Simpson.  Linda swallowed hard and said, "This is lovely".  I think that's the only lie I ever heard her tell.

We went from Silver Spring Avenue to Sligo Avenue, two blocks away.  The building was old but it was well kept by the landlord who was an octogenarian known in the area for his pride in his properties.  Most importantly, the price was under market and what we could afford.

With 1,200 sq. ft. we had enough space to grow.  Soon - at the beginning of 2001 - I was converting staff (including myself) from part-timers to full-timers.  With the support of the community and a strong growth in patient programs, though, it didn't take long for us to fill that half-floor space.  At about the time we leased the rest of the floor, the building was sold...and PHA learned a lot about how quickly a building could go downhill.

Over the next two years, we had more than 35 leaks in our top floor space.  The heating and air were a wreck and temperatures in the office varied with the seasons - from the 50's to the 80's.  At about the same time we were able to break the lease, we were bringing in the health department to deal with growing mold.  I was proud - and, I must admit, amazed at most of our staff's ability to stay true to the cause and continue to support our growth in the midst of a really difficult situation.

Our next move was a big one and we thought it would sustain us for quite awhile.  We leased 6,100 sq. ft. on Roeder Road, five blocks from Sligo Ave.  PHA continued to grow, and even faster in a good environment and, with a staff in the 20's, we filled that space too.  In 2007, we added another 2,000 or so sq. ft. on the floor above our main space.

Surely, that would be enough!

Well no...  We were soon expanding our medical education, meetings and publishing programs.  Membership and patient programs were also growing very fast.  Staffiing grew to the mid-30's and a very sophisticated year-round internship program has been flourishing and adding new value.

So, a few months ago, our board approved yet another move.  It was a good time.  In this economy, we were able to negotiate approximately 40% more space at about 18% more cost.  Renovations started yesterday and in mid-March, we hope to be reconsolidating our entire staff on the 11,000+ sq. ft. we'll be moving to on the top floor of our current building

And that will be our last move for awhile.  We hope.

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