MOBILE – The Mobile City Council will soon decide the fate of a city-owned coworking space for local nonprofit organizations.
The Council on Tuesday delayed, for at least a week, a lease agreement between the city and the Fuse Project for the fourth floor of a city-owned building at 200 Government St. The space, Fuse Project board chairman and co-founder Grant Zarzour said, would be available to about 60 local nonprofit organizations. For below-market-rate rent, the various organizations — which have not yet been selected — will be free to use the space as an office, conference room or collaboration facility.
“The goal is to get all the nonprofits to the next level,” Zarzour said. “Nonprofits have to act more like businesses and to do that they have to raise more money.”
The space will provide local organizations with lower overhead, as they will be sharing the office, the copier, Internet access, phone and utilities, Zarzour said.
“We want to give nonprofits the best opportunity to survive,” he said.
The organizations selected must have an impact on the city of Mobile, Zarzour said.
Under the proposed agreement, the city will lease the floor to Fuse Project for $1 per year for 15 years, Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said. Fuse will then charge a fee to each of the organizations using the space to help pay for $600,000 in renovations the group is making to the space.
During a pre-conference meeting to discuss the lease, some Councilors said they wanted to make sure the entire community is represented in the organizations chosen to participate in the project.
“This is a publicly owned building,” Councilman Levon Manzie said. “We want to make certain there’s room for everyone at the table and that nonprofits from the length and breadth of the city are able to participate.”
In addition, Councilman Fred Richardson said he was concerned about Fuse taking up space the city would need in the future. He suggested the item be discussed further in a committee meeting.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he didn’t see any city departments needing the space any time soon.
Richardson also suggested to Zarzour allowing the council to select board members who would determine what organizations could pay to use the space.
Councilman John Williams suggested letting Fuse operate under the lease for a few months and then have them come before Council for a review.
“We’re trying to mess with something that’s working,” Williams said. “Trying to get them to take our help is not a good idea.”
In other business, the Council delayed until Tuesday, Nov. 24, a decision to rename the cruise terminal the City of Mobile, Alabama, Cruise Terminal. The council also authorized a $518,955 agreement with Volkert for improvements to Broad Street, from south of Interstate 10 to Water Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Cooper said the city would contribute in-kind services to the Ten Sixty Five music festival this weekend. The services are expected to cost less than the $200,000 they had anticipated to spend on BayFest for the same services. The city had also budgeted $98,000 for BayFest in the 2016 budget. That money was moved to another part of the budget, once organizers announced the long-running festival’s cancellation.