by Laura Kroger
The Campus/Rentals Committee is actively moving forward with the recommendation from the Strategic Plan to maximize space usage by renting our facilities during the week. The objective is to both increase revenue and create a community hub, while prioritizing or accommodating parish usage. We are excited to create a dynamic environment at St. John’s for our neighbors in Montclair and the broader Oakland community.
Over the past year, we have brought in two tenants who are a wonderful fit for our rental program. Pride in Learning Montessori (PILM) school moved into the Nursery and Library in the fall for their infant and toddler programs, and they have expanded into the Reception Room this spring with their preschool program. Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries (FOPSL) moved into the upstairs Godly Play classroom on the corner overlooking the playground, with their program to collect and distribute books to underserved students. We anticipate that our prior tenants, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Music Together (toddler music class), will return to using the Fischer Room once it is safe for them to resume their programs. The leases for all tenants include flexible usage of the spaces so that St. John’s can continue to run our own programs.
Another goal of the space rental program is to bring in short-term renters. This might include individuals, for-profit businesses, or non-profit organizations that need a conference room for a couple of hours or office space for a day. Some of you may know that parishioner and former People’s Warden, Ian Storrar, founded a startup website/app called ThisSpace (www.usethisspace.com), which is designed to connect tenants with church spaces for short-term rentals and which functions as a booking platform with an electronic user agreement and payment system. The Campus/Rentals Committee is fortunate to have Ian as a member and we are using ThisSpace as a model for our program. We also had the opportunity to use ThisSpace on a trial basis.
Earlier this year, the committee consulted with a couple of parishioners who are real estate agents to get their input and advice about using St. John’s for short-term rental space. Nancy Lehrkind and Helen Nicholas were both enthusiastic about the market for this kind of space rental, especially during the pandemic, and provided great information and data to help us with pricing and listing the Education Building spaces. The committee had just completed preparing the Rector’s Office when Nancy put us in touch with her daughter, former St. John’s youth member, Molly Lehrkind. Molly, an attorney, and her husband Ben, a computer engineer, are both working remotely and needed office space for three weeks this spring while selling their house and moving into their new place nearby.
Molly’s initial feedback about using ThisSpace indicated a good start to our trial short-term rental of the Rector’s Office with the comments “seamless” and “took 15 seconds.” She has good memories of her CNC class meeting in the Rector’s Office and loved working in the light-filled space with pretty views. Molly and Ben have a 9-month-old daughter, so a chance meeting with the director of PILM in the kitchen serendipitously led to a conversation about the Montessori philosophy, an impromptu tour of the school, and Gillian is now on the waitlist to enroll in the program in August! We may even have a chance to see their family at St. John’s when we re-open!
The Campus/Rentals committee is working toward making short term-rentals sustainable – standardizing and streamlining the process to minimize staff and volunteer involvement, and creating a smooth experience for the tenants. Our Rector, Scott, is part of the adventure and with his usual sense of humor, quipped that he enjoys being the first rector in the diocese without an office. Our Youth Director, Kellor, is excited about the possibility of the youth at St. John’s collaborating with FOPSL in their volunteer activities to promote literacy.
All of the renters who have occupied space in the past year at St. John’s have reached out to us, and word of mouth is bringing us great tenants! Not only was Nancy Lehrkind instrumental in connecting us with Molly, but also PILM heard about St. John’s through Ian Storrar and FOPSL heard about us through a few of their supporters who are also St. John’s members, Nancy Kho, Louise Miller, and Barbara Newhall. If you know of anyone interested in renting space at St. John’s, please let us know: email@example.com