Sale of the MDA building, 3300 E. Sunrise Drive, would net the organization millions dollars, an official says.

Courtesy of MDA

The Muscular Dystrophy Association has announced plans to move its national offices from Tucson after calling the area home for nearly 22 years.

“We’re not leaving Tucson,” MDA Vice President of Public Relations Roxan Olivas said. “It’s really a growth move — it’s about moving forward.”

Despite plans to sell its Tucson office building and relocate the organization’s national office to the Chicago area, Olivas said the group still will keep a considerable presence in Tucson.

The majority of the nonprofit research organization’s 110 Tucson-based employees will continue to work here at a leased office space. About 15 to 20 employees would be relocated to other MDA offices in locations including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.

MDA has not yet leased a building for the remaining Tucson operation. It plans the move to Chicago for early 2014.

Olivas described the move to Chicago as a strategic shift for the organization.

“What we are looking to do in Chicago is be more centrally located,” she said, noting the proximity to research institutions and other industry partners.

Olivas said MDA funds more than $250 million in research at institutions across the country.

Despite the millions spent on research, the organization has seen some revenue changes in the years since the Great Recession.

“We’ve definitely seen some tough years in this economy,” Olivas said.

Total revenue in tax year 2011 was $156.5 million; for 2010 it was $174.6 million. Both those years’ revenues were declines from tax year 2009, when revenue was $179 million, up considerably from 2008, which was $164 million, according to the organization’s tax filings.

Olivas said the sale of the MDA national office, at 3300 E. Sunrise Drive, would net the organization “millions and millions” of dollars.

“We’re trying to retool to spend our donors’ money wisely,” Olivas said.

She did not say what the likely sale price or even sale range for the property would be.

MDA has hired real estate company Cushman Wakefield Picor to help it sell the property. An open bid process is planned to field prospective buyers.

The Tucson headquarters sits on 7 acres. The Pima County Assessor’s Office lists full cash value of the property at $15.3 million, which is the amount used to calculate the organization’s property taxes. But assessor’s values frequently do not translate to sales prices and tend to be below the sales market.

In addition to office space, the building was equipped with television and other media-production facilities.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association was founded in 1950. Over the years it has raised several billion dollars toward research efforts. It provides funding to researchers and institutions that seek cures for numerous muscular diseases.

The organization is renowned for the annual Labor Day weekend telethon, which for many years featured host Jerry Lewis.

It moved its national headquarters from New York City to Tucson in 1991. Construction of its current headquarters was completed in 1992.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or On Twitter @pm929.