Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 7:08 am | Fair 52º


Unity Shoppe Seals the Deal on New Home

Nonprofit purchases former Magellan's building on West Sola Street — just in time for next month's telethon

It’s official that the Unity Shoppe has a new home to replace its longtime location — in the basement of Victoria Hall Theater, which it called home for the past 20 years.

Instead, the 16,000-square-foot Magellan’s Travel Supplies building at 110 W. Sola St. in Santa Barbara — a block from the theater, at 33 W. Victoria St. — will house the organization’s efforts, including this year’s telethon. The Unity Shoppe’s board of directors approved the nonprofit organization’s pursuit of the location last month, and a statement sent out Tuesday by real estate company Radius Group, which brokered the deal, confirmed the move.

Radius Group’s Brad Frohling called the new location an “amazing answer to their need.”

“It was great to be apart of a cooperative transaction,” he said in the statement. “We all knew we were working on a good solution to help the Unity Shoppe find a new building that would help them continue their efforts to impact the community for years to come.”

Tensions surrounding the Victoria Hall Theater and its inhabitants came to light last year. The theater is owned by three nonprofit organizations — CALM (Child Abuse Listening & Mediation), RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) of Santa Barbara and Unity Shoppe.

The Ensemble Theatre Company entered the picture, wanting to use the facility as well. While CALM and RSVP voted to allow the theater company to begin a 30-year lease, Unity has been opposed to the plan, saying it would have negative impacts on Unity’s fundraising telethon that takes place in the theater space. After months of litigation, Ensemble Theatre was allowed to proceed with the lease.

“We thought we were in control because we owned a third of it,” Unity Shoppe Executive Director Tom Reed told Noozhawk last month, but that Unity was excluded from the process, forcing his organization to look for a new home for its annual telethon, and for ongoing operations.

The Magellan’s building was set to be torn down as recently as four months ago. Before the recession hit, plans for condominiums had been approved for the site, but the market fell through, leaving the lot without movement. The Unity Shoppe found out about the owner’s desire to sell before it went on the market. The site’s owner, Magellan’s founder John McManus, had taken a previous tour of Unity Shoppe and offered the group a $3 million price — a figure below the property’s appraised value, Reed said.

Even though money raised during the telethon amounts to a third of Unity Shoppe’s budget, that money is used to buy food and other items to stock its “free” store at 1219 State St. The telethon fundraising doesn’t affect the organization’s capital budget.

The statement said that the support of Jelinda DeVorzon and Harold & Annette Simmons made it possible to close escrow in time for the telethon next month. The campaign to raise money to pay off the building will be ongoing, according to Tuesday’s statement, and will be coordinated by Larry Crandell, Gerd Jordano, Janet Garufis, David Hughes and Kent Englert.

Click here to make an online donation to Unity Shoppe.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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