World Relief, an international disaster relief and refugee assistance group, will consolidate its home base in Baltimore, where it will occupy a landmark bank building by summertime, the group confirmed yesterday.
The group plans to move its national and international offices from Nyack, N.Y., and Carol Stream, Ill., by August, an official said. More than 100 staffers will eventually work from a new headquarters at 1-7 E. Baltimore St., two vacant buildings last used by First Union Corp.
According to state land records, the World Relief Corp. of the National Association of Evangelicals purchased 7 E. Baltimore St., a six-story building, for about $1.4 million at the end of March. World Relief's real estate agent said the group also has leased, and plans to buy the adjacent bank building at the southeast corner of Charles and Baltimore streets - a 1907 classic structure inspired by by a temple in Greece.
A small transition office has been open on Redwood Street since August, when negotiations over the move to the bank buildings began, said David J. Downey Jr., who represented the sellers and World Relief for Colliers Pinkard, a commercial real estate company.
From the new offices, World Relief will continue to handle such tasks as resettling refugees around the nation for the U.S. State Department. It also will look for local projects in partnership with area churches, said Linda Keys, World Relief's director of public information.
"We will be active in Baltimore," she said. "It's definitely a priority. We'll be working with churches to meet the needs in the urban area."
Keys said the needs of the city were a draw for the group. Also important was the East Coast location near official refugee agencies, the area's transportation and communications infrastructure and the base of aid organizations already here.
Baltimore serves as the headquarters for a number of major philanthropic groups that moved here over the past dozen or so years. They include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which moved from Greenwich, Conn., in 1994; Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Immigration and Relief Service, which moved from New York in 1999; the International Youth Foundation Inc., which came from Battle Creek, Mich., in 1996; and Catholic Relief Services, which relocated from New York in 1989.
More such moves predicted
Vincent F. Connelly, president-elect of the Association of Fundraising Professionals' Maryland chapter, said Baltimore can expect more organizations to select it.
"People like to hang out with people who are similar to them," he said. "Word gets around the philanthropic community. It starts to snowball."
And that's a good thing, added Donald P. Hutchinson, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
Hutchinson said the groups bring educated professionals to the city to work and live. While the groups do not pay property taxes, they do spend money in the community on services and projects and their workers pay taxes and spend their paychecks in the area.
"They also bring a world focus on us and let others know we're here," he said. "They tell people why they should go to Baltimore."
According to GuideStar, which compiles nonprofits' tax records, World Relief had income of $33.6 million in 1999 and assets of $11.8 million.
World Relief's Keys said income increased in 2000 to $47.8 million but has dipped some this year. The group raises the bulk of its funds from individual donations and government grants.
By comparison, Catholic Relief Services, one of the nation's largest nonprofits, reported $127.2 million in income and $263.8 million in assets in 1999, according to GuideStar.
Incentive money a big factor
Keys said incentive money was big factor in getting the group to move to Baltimore.
Officials at the Greater Baltimore Alliance, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and Baltimore Development Corp. all worked on luring the group to the city, according to Keys. No one at the agencies was available for comment.
An official announcement of the World Relief move is planned in coming weeks.