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BOSTON-The American Congregational Association is now in its third century, but the religious historical group is not totally entrenched in the past. Hoping to utilize technology to make its renowned Congressional Library and archives collection at 14 Beacon St. available via the Internet, the ACA is employing a new-age real estate formula to fund that effort, retaining Richards Barry Joyce & Partners to execute the sale-leaseback of a structure that was custom-built for the 155-year-old organization in 1898. The ACA is hoping to reap at least $19 million from the initiative.

“It’s a beautiful spot and we want to continue to stay there,” ACA chairman William Ghormley tells GlobeSt.com in explaining why the sale/leaseback model is being employed. “We’re very comfortable with it.”

Besides being among New England’s longest-held private properties, 14 Beacon St. also holds a bit of television nostalgia as the perceived office of television character Ally McBeal. RBJ investment sales broker Richard Herlihy is not surprised the eight-story property was singled out for that purpose given accoutrements such as large arched windows and a grand façade sporting intricate reliefs. “It photographs like nobody’s business,” Herlihy says of the 73,000-sf building.

Inside, the two-level library on the second and third floors overlooks Boston’s famous Granary Burial Ground, creating a pastoral setting that the ACA wants to preserve. But Ghormley stresses that the building’s attributes are more than skin deep, having been constructed to support printing presses on the top floor. “It’s heavy duty,” he says, adding that the ACA has also spent money upgrading 14 Beacon St., including roof replacement and installation of a fire suppression system.

Beyond the goal of financing its electronic library for use globally and funding scholarships to foster research of historical religious orders and related topics, Ghormley says the ongoing maintenance responsibilities contributed to the ACA’s decision to divest 14 Beacon St. “We wanted to shift our energies and focus on our mission,” he says, noting that the group is heavily reliant on volunteers. Fourteen Beacon St. also houses several like-minded non-profit tenants, requiring asset management duties as well.

The sale-leaseback concept is gaining momentum for many owners, as exemplified by the just-completed agreement between Abt Associates of Cambridge and the New Boston Fund. In a deal exclusively reported by GlobeSt.com, NBF paid $25 million for the consulting firm’s longtime home in Cambridge’s Alewife District. While unclear at the time of the earlier article, sources have since confirmed that Abt is leasing back the premises for another 10 years. That transaction is said to be part of an investment strategy by NBF to pursue sale/leasebacks of corporate headquarters.

The arrival of 14 Beacon St. on the sales block comes in a period when foreign capital and other investors are clamoring to buy into Boston’s established areas such as the Back Bay and Beacon Hill. “I think it is going to be really well-received,” says Herlihy, who is handling the assignment with colleague Richard Bradbury.

Ghormley indicates the capital-laden landscape was not a driving factor in opting to sell, explaining the ACA board has been debating whether to take that route for five years. The deliberate process ultimately could be rewarded, as evidenced by the just-completed sale of the nearby 8 Mount Vernon Place. In 2001, the Universalist Unitarian Association traded that 7,800-sf building where its printing operations had been for decades, fetching $3.9 million in the process. Just last week, however, the same building traded again, but for $9.3 million, more than double what the UUA reaped. “The timing is definitely good,” acknowledges Ghormley.

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