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My big goal for 2005 was to find an office for Newgrounds. It was our ten year anniversary and NG had really outgrown the basement of my house. Most of the staff was working from home and we all wanted to get together in a lively environment where we could "get energized."
I wanted to own a building rather than rent space because I consider Newgrounds to be something permanent and not something that can be forced to move by anyone. By owning our own building, we can renovate it however we want and stay for as long as we want.
The search had been casual for the past few years; checking out buildings, knocking on doors and taking a look around. Since the summer of 2004, I had my eye set on a street in Glenside, where a row of large buildings sit adjacent to the train station. Thanks to some nosing around, I'm aware that plans are in motion to redevelop the train station, replacing the expansive ground level parking lot with a parking garage set behind retail and green space. Not a bad place to invest in a building, I figured.
In early 2005, opportunity arose. One of the buildings on the street went up for sale!
I walked in and inquired about the price but it was more than I was ready to spend. Months went by and business continued to improve. The building hadn't sold yet so they lowered the price. I decided to make an offer for less than asking price and we eventually met in the middle! Everything was on track to buy the building.
The building would have needed a lot of work. The main space was for film processing, so rows of dark rooms had been built and there was lots of equipment with pipes full of chemicals. Chemicals creep me out; you never know if they have been handled properly over the years. We intended to gut the place and start from scratch, meaning lots of dark rooms to tear down and junk to remove.
The space in the back was rented by a photographer and had a more finished yet industrial feel. I figured we could keep renting the space to help cover the mortgage.
The inspection turned up two big concerns. First, there was a small basement area containing a large boiler, covered in asbestos. This would need to be "properly removed" and the removal wouldn't be cheap. The second finding was a large oil tank buried outside. Removal would be expensive at the least, but could potentially be VERY expensive. The owners of the building wouldn't negotiate a price change based on the new findings, so we decided the building was too much work and too much risk.
The building was instead bought by a neighboring store, who tore it down to expand their parking lot:
It just so happened that a larger, more attractive building had gone up for sale even closer to the train station. It had long been my favorite building on the street; I had knocked on the door a few months earlier and learned the owner was retiring and preparing to sell. It was priced out of my league, but the months continued to roll by and business continued to go well. I felt scorned after the failure of the first building and every day I had to drive by and think about how awesome it would be if Newgrounds could have such a grand office. I figured the first building was like a starter building and this building was the goal, so why not just go straight to the goal?
With that in mind, I made the craziest, most risky decision of my entire life. I bought this building:
It's totally badass! Originally built in the 50s for housing heavy manufacturing equipment, the second floor is poured concrete over steal beams. The first floor is warehouse space with a small office and apartment on the left side. Upstairs is finished office space, where an architecture firm took up residence before expanding to a downtown location. We're working from the second floor while brainstorming ideas for the first floor. An art gallery? A brew pub? Feel free to make suggestions!
Want a tour of the inside? Read more about the office!