Clinic Works Out Deal to Move Into Its Own Building By CARLOS MARTINEZ Staff Reporter Demonstrating financial savvy unusual in the world of nonprofits, the Valley Community Clinic pulled off a deal last month that allows it to acquire its own $5.5 million building in North Hollywood. “We were lucky in some ways because we ran around and just patched this funding together,” said Ann Britt, the clinic’s CEO and president. The clinic closed its purchase of the $5.5 million building at 6801 N. Coldwater Canyon Blvd. on Jan. 31 after nearly four months of wrangling with banks, the city and building owners. In August, the nonprofit approached Trol Realty LLC, a group of investors that included doctors who sometimes volunteer at the clinic, about the 43,600-square-foot building it owned. The investors wanted $5.5 million, or about $2 million less than the appraised value, for the building that had been vacant for three years, Britt said. “We felt very fortunate that we were getting a good deal, but the problem was getting the financing together,” she said. First, the clinic got a $1.5 million federal Community Development Block grant that was contingent upon the nonprofit rustling up the balance of the funding for the acquisition. Britt quickly landed a $1.3 million loan from the city, but it came with a hitch the clinic had until Jan. 31 to use it or the offer was off the table. Meanwhile, on another front, the clinic was running into trouble drumming up interest from commercial banks and time was running out. “It’s common for nonprofits to have a difficult time,” said Brent Wiblin, vice president of Mellon First Business Bank in Encino. “Nonprofits just don’t have a bottom line (profit) and that unnerves banks.” At that point, Britt enlisted the help of the Valley Economic Development Corp., which got the clinic and Mellon close to a final deal on a $2.2 million loan in late December. “They came to us and said, ‘We need you to put together a package, but there’s not that much time,'” Yvette Ibarra, revolving loan program manager for the VEDC, said. With just over a month to beat the city’s deadline on the first loan, the VEDC and bank officials had plenty of details to iron out. “Nonprofits have wild swings,” said Mellon’s Wiblin. “They have a lot of funding or none at all, so it’s hard to make sense of it.” “You just don’t get nonprofits coming in for money to buy a building,” he added. In fact, many of the Valley’s largest nonprofit organizations, including the North Los Angeles County Regional Center and the Child and Family Guidance Center, say they lease their buildings. But with a fundraising drive with a goal of raising $6 million by 2006 and a client base projected to grow from 45,000 last year to 60,000 this year, Mellon finally approved the deal shortly after the first of the year. That still left the clinic $500,000 short of the $5.5 million purchase price. Britt then quickly went back to the city for a second grant of about $200,000, wrangled another $200,000 grant from the California Primary Care Assn. and talked the sellers into giving the clinic a $50,000 line of credit. The final $50,000 the clinic scraped together from friends and its own cash reserves. The two-story structure on Coldwater Canyon was built in 1984 for Cigna Health Care and was acquired by Friendly Hills Medical Group in the mid-1990s. In 1999, Friendly Hills filed for bankruptcy and abandoned the building. According to county tax records, the building is valued at $7.7 million. “We were in need of a new building for a while,” said clinic spokeswoman Judi Rose. “We were turning away 200 to 300 patients a year because of overcrowding at the clinic.” The clinic will continue to offer dental, pediatric, pre-natal, general health care, eye care and other services at its new facility. It also expects to increase its staff of about 110 people by about 40 by the end of the year, Britt said. “We’re going to ramp up and expand our services to meet the need,” she said.