By Brittney McNamara
MetroWest Daily News, Framingham
FRAMINGHAM - An unexpected spike in rent is forcing the Pearl Street Cupboard and Cafe from its downtown spot, according to United Way of Tri-County President Paul Mina.
Mina said rent is more than doubling at the Cupboard and Cafe’s 10 Pearl St. home come the end of August, making it impossible for the food pantry to stay in its current location. Because Mina said the organization didn’t know it would have to move until about six weeks ago, United Way has started a drive to fund the move that Mina estimated will cost at least $100,000.
Five years ago, Mina said the organization entered into a charitable lease provided by an area philanthropic family, that gave the food pantry reduced rent and guaranteed five years in the former Registry of Motor Vehicles building, with the option to continue for another five years. The actual cost of rent, however, was not stipulated, Mina said, and the family sold the property.
In September, Mina said he notified the new building owner the organization was exercising its right to continue the lease, but the owner, whom Mina did not name, countered that he was raising the $3,000 per month rent to $6,800 per month.
Framingham property records show Vaios Theodorakos of VTT management is the property owner. VTT management owns other properties in Framingham, Worcester and across the country, according to its website. Theodorakos did not return phone calls on Thursday.
“For Framingham normal rent, that’s correct, but we weren’t a regular lease,” Mina said. “We were a charity lease and he knew it when he bought it. We’re a non-profit and we can’t afford that” big monthly increase.
Mina said United Way tried to work out a way to stay at Pearl Street, offering to buy the building, and proposing a slightly increased rent, but the deals fell through. Instead of staying, Mina said the organization worked out a deal with Roger Challen, the owner of the United Way headquarters at 46 Park St. The organization will buy the building from Challen for $1.7 million, a price Mina called reasonable and affordable for the organization, and move the cafe into the vacant first floor. Though Mina said the new digs will be an improvement, it’s coming at a cost.
“It’s going to be … an improvement on what we currently have,” Mina said. “It’s a lovely place for our clients and volunteers, but it’s going to cost me money. Money I didn’t budget for, money I don’t have.”
Mina said to move the newly renovated industrial kitchen from its Pearl Street home to the new building will cost $100,000 at least, not counting the cost of construction and other modifications to the building. To ease the burden, United Way is looking to the community in a new fundraising campaign selling commemorative bricks and pavers. Mina said the goal is to raise at least $150,000, enough to cover the move and any expenses that might crop up. Currently, he said he’s not sure how much it will take to get everything ready at the new location.
Even if he doesn’t know how much or even how it will all happen, Mina said he knows when it will happen. The café will close for a week in mid-August to transfer everything over to the new site. That way, Mina said the Pearl Street Café can get back to serving the thousands of Framingham residents who count on it for a meal in a location they know.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to solidify our operation and programming forever,” Mina said. “This community has been very generous to us.”
To donate, visit http://www.uwotc.org/BRICK.
Brittney McNamara can be reached at 508-490-7463 or by email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @bmcnamara_MW.