The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is getting a $250,000 discount on the purchase of the old First Citizen’s building next door because Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston, a founder of the museum, is refusing to take a quarter of a million-dollar commission on the $10.5 million purchase.
When Alston was asked about the decision, he acknowledged that, as the buyer’s agent on the deal, his real estate agency –The Alston Realty Group – was entitled to the commission but that he was refusing to take the commission so that the museum county get the building and surrounding property at a lower price.
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is working toward being designated as a World Heritage Site – a highly prestigious landmark designation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The museum, at 134 S. Elm St. is buying the whole downtown Greensboro block for $10.25 million. The museum also needs the parking lot on the block and that lot is included in the purchase.
The civil rights museum plans to use the building next door for added exhibits and more meeting space. The purchase cost would have been $10.5 million if Alston hadn’t decided to forgo his commission.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted last week to have county staff prepare for Guilford County to provide $2 million toward the project, and the board is expected to finalize that funding very soon. Others – such as the City of Greensboro, the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation of Greater Greensboro, and the State of North Carolina – may also help fund this major expansion of the museum.
Alston said that he has never ever profited from the museum and said the whole point of the project was to preserve the historic site of where the civil rights sit-in movement began in 1960 and to call attention to the critically important role that the sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter played in advancing civil rights in this nation. He said he wants it to be a place where people’s minds are opened and they are educated about civil rights and the history of the movement.
“I’ve never made a penny from the museum,” Alston said, acknowledging that over the years some of his critics have made that allegation.
He said that, in fact, years ago, he took over a $60,000 loan the museum had on the books to help the museum succeed.
Alston said that he had no desire to collect his commission as long as the $250,000 would go to the museum and not too the seller’s agent.
In accordance with state law, Alston has stayed completely out of the funding discussions since he was a co-founder of the museum. Before the Board of Commissioners held the discussion on giving the museum the $2 million on Friday, March 18, Alston left the meeting room in the Bur-Mil Clubhouse and stood out by his car making phone calls. The photo above was taken through the window of the clubhouse as those discussions and the subsequent vote took place.