Citing changes in its operations, the American Booksellers Association told its membership last week that it is close to selling its headquarters in Tarrytown, N.Y. The association acquired the property, which includes three buildings on just over 10 acres along the Hudson River, in 1991 for approximately $3 million.
"We just plain don't need as much space as we have," ABA president Ann Christophersen and owner of the Women and Children First bookstore told PW. Total office space of the buildings, which underwent extensive renovations, is about 50,000 square feet.
A letter addressed to members and posted on the organization's Web site said that the ABA has agreed to sell the property to "a prominent Westchester-based real estate company." The organization will then lease back the property that it currently occupies for the next two years, with an option to remain after that. The ABA plans to appoint a task force to decide where to relocate. Christophersen said all options will be considered, including staying in the suburban New York area and moving to New York City.
When the ABA bought the property, it had nearly 5,000 members and 55 full-time staff. Its membership has since shrunk to about 1,950. As the organization got smaller, it began leasing unused space to tenants. According to the ABA letter, "We never believed that it was in the best interests of ABA or the membership to be in the real estate business for the long-term."
Christophersen said the group expects to save money by relocating, but that the decision to sell is not a sign that the ABA is struggling financially. "We're actually at a very stable position," she said. "We could certainly afford to go on in the Tarrytown property. Is that the best way to spend membership money? Our decision is it's not."
As noted in its letter, the ABA has undergone wholesale changes since it moved to the Tarrytown location in 1993. At the time, the ABA operated the trade show (since sold to Reed Exhibitions), published a monthly magazine and ran a full program of prospective bookseller schools.