Letter to the community

Dear Bulgarian Community:

I would like to share further details about the planned acquisition of 310 River Street, Billerica to serve as the home of the Bulgarian Center of New England.

A Brief History of the Bulgarian Center of New England, Inc.(BCNE)

BCNE was founded in early 2013 in conjunction with the Bulgarian Church, the Bulgarian School and BACC Madara, with the primary purpose of finding a home for the Bulgarian community. All three organizations have remained actively involved since that time. The organization has been run completely by volunteers who have spent countless hours raising funds and organizing events for the community, as well as searching for a home for the center.

Since 2013, BCNE has conducted several surveys via social media and email to the Bulgarian Community to determine suitable locations and priorities. Responses and population density lead us to concentrate on the 128 belt, stretching from the Waltham area to in and around Boston.

After raising sufficient funds for a down payment in early 2019, we ramped up our search efforts.  In order to qualify for a loan. Commercial lenders advised that we had to partner with the Bulgarian School and could only qualify for a loan of $400,000.00.  Given that we had only raised roughly $150,000.00 at that point, we had to be realistic in our search. A number of buildings were viewed and considered, including properties in Burlington, Revere, Framingham and Melrose, however, all buildings were well above our budget ($800K plus) and required a significant investment to make them suitable for the communities’ needs. There were no buildings available in and around Boston that were anywhere near our budget.

Building Location

Late this summer, the partnering organizations expanded the geographic search area to be able to find a building within budget while meeting the criteria set out by the organizations.  After an exhaustive search, the property in Billerica was identified, and met the bulk of the criteria – large enough to meet the needs of the school, space for the church to hold services and mark religious milestones of the Bulgarian community, large parking, and a main hall that could host smaller events and celebrations for the community.  The building is about 7.5 miles from the Burlington Mall, just off exit 28 on Route 3. Billerica also has a commuter rail station in town about 2.5 miles from the building. Every member of the boards of the Center and the BG school viewed the building and unanimously agreed to move forward with the purchase.  

About the building:

Roughly 3,700 sq. ft., formerly used as a church, the building sits on 1.64 acres of land and has parking for at least 60 vehicles.   The main floor houses a sanctuary that can seat up to 150 people, and the bottom floor has a small kitchen area, with two small existing classrooms and room to add in at least 2 to 3 more classrooms. The intent is to partition the sanctuary with moveable walls so that it can serve as additional classroom space as needed, and opened up for church and cultural functions at all other times.  

Purchase Negotiations:

The seller acquired the property at the end of October, 2019 for a purchase price of $401,000.  The property was originally listed in July, 2019 for $400,000, and the Seller went under agreement shortly thereafter.   Unfortunately we had not yet expanded our search to include Billerica, otherwise we may have had a shot at the property closer to its original asking price.  The seller, a developer, initially intended to develop the property with multiple residential structures. The town advised him that as the property was previously approved for church/school use, that he should instead market the property for such purposes.  The seller installed a new septic system and relisted the property at the end of November for $650,000, which is when the building first appeared on our radar. After board approvals, an offer was made at $550,000, contingent upon the property appraising at or above the purchase price.  As multiple offers were made on the property, the final agreed to winning bid by our organization was $575,000. Post inspection we were able to further negotiate the price to the final purchase price of $565,000. Given the current feasibility of the location and the ability for future expansion, and given that it is within our budget and our ability to carry the mortgage, the decision was made to continue to move forward with the purchase.

Renovation and construction plans:  

Phase I:  While the structure is relatively usable to meet church and function hall needs, much work is needed to prepare the building for the school’s use by this fall, including building classrooms, installing movable walls, and upgrading the structure to comply with all necessary building codes.

Phase II:  As funds are raised by the community, we intend to expand the facility further, including separate classroom space to alleviate the dual use of the sanctuary/function hall, expansion of the sanctuary/function hall to host larger events and additional space to host meetings and social events.

We are in the process of applying for a large capital grant, which will certainly help our efforts if we are approved, however, financial support from the community at this time is critical and we hope you will join us in making this happen!  

Our team has been working hard for 7 years now to find a home for you, the Bulgarian community, and we will continue our efforts to develop the facility to best support the community’s needs. 

Честита Нова Година!

David S. Flashenburg, President, 

on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Bulgarian Center of New England, Inc.