By Michael Jacobs / mjacobs@atljewishtimes.com

Douglas Kuniansky

Douglas Kuniansky

The Marcus Jewish Community Center came close to adding a Virginia-Highland location but backed off a deal to avoid debt.

Marcus JCC President Douglas Kuniansky, who ias due to transition Tuesday night, March 24, at the center’s annual meeting to chairman of its newly unified board of directors, said the JCC spent a lot of time and effort on due diligence on property in the Va-Hi/Emory area before deciding to walk away from high-priced real estate.

“We decided we’re not going to go into debt to establish a JCC facility wherever we go,” said Kuniansky, who did not specify when the center almost put the property under contract. He has led the center’s advisory board for a year.

The Marcus JCC operates programs inside and outside the Perimeter, including Camp Barney Medintz in Cleveland. But since selling Shirley Blumenthal Park in East Cobb to Mount Bethel Christian Academy last year, the center owns only Zaban Park in Dunwoody as a year-round facility.

Kuniansky said both the intown area on the east side of Atlanta and the North Metro area of Roswell and Alpharetta are appealing for the JCC to establish a permanent presence. That presence might be a lease rather than a purchase, he said; meanwhile, the center is trying to establish more partnerships like it has with Emory University to take its programs where they are needed.

The anti-debt attitude perhaps reflects a fiscal realism that has allowed the Marcus JCC to streamline its governance. Eight years after a financial crisis led the center’s directors to launch a special debt-reduction campaign and to split into a governance board to oversee finances and an advisory board to handle programming, the center is set at its annual meeting to adopt a unified, 18-member board.