Equality Forum to close Philly office

Equality Forum to close Philly office

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Equality Forum has decided to give up its office space in Philadelphia.

The LGBTQ civil-rights organization, which was founded in Philadelphia in 1993, is selling the condo on the third floor of the Academy House that has served as its homebase since 2004.

The closure is a sign that the organization is moving away from hosting its signature Philadelphia-based events — which it hasn’t done since 2016 — to commit more fully to online-based endeavors like its LGBT History Month campaign and website.

But Executive Director Malcolm Lazin said it’s really more about practicality than anything.

“We use the office very little, so we just decided it was not worth it to have an office when there wasn’t a need for it,” he said from his winter home in Sarasota, Fla. “I’m in Philadelphia probably about two months out of the year, and really it remains empty for 10 months of the year. So it really doesn’t make sense for us to have that office unoccupied.”

Lazin said most of Equality Forum’s work these days is completed virtually and outsourced to people all over the country — from Jenkintown to Stanford University to Austin, Texas.

“We’ve been doing it that way for the last several years.” Lazin said. “From a cost perspective, it’s a far more efficient way to be doing business and it produces a better product.”

The office, in suite 3a at 1420 Locust St., is essentially a converted condominium that Lazin said was given to Equality Forum in 2004 from an anonymous donor. It’s currently listed with an asking price of $425,000.

He said the 1,452-square-foot unit offers space for four full-time employees and a small conference room.

“It’s an excellent space for a smaller nonprofit,” he said. “We hope that, potentially, someone in the community, particularly a nonprofit, would end up purchasing the office. It’s a block and a half from the Gayborhood.”

Lazin said the money from the sale will help Equality Forum “leverage what we already have,” namely to make “strategic investments in LGBT History Month,” which is predominantly an educational website populated with bios and videos of 403 LGBTQ icons like Gilbert Baker, Lance Bass and Roberta Kaplan.

“That’s probably, in terms of online, the largest LGBT resource of its type, worldwide,” he said. “Thirty-one more will be added this October.”

Equality Forum also plans to continue an ongoing project to install LGBTQ-centric historic markers in Philadelphia and around the country.

“Thanks to the Equality Forum’s endeavors, Philadelphia now has more government-approved, nationally significant LGBT historic markers than any city in the world,” Lazin said. “We hope to add two more in October.”

Those include a marker outside Giovanni’s Room recognizing it as the “oldest gay and lesbian bookstore in continuous use in the United States,” and another commemorating the "nation’s first successful LGBT sit-in” at Dewey’s, a former popular LGBTQ hangout that was most recently Little Pete’s diner.

Lazin hinted that money from the sale will also be used to fund other big plans coming from Equality Forum, but said he will release those details when “we’re ready to make those announcements.” 

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