WILMINGTON — A plan seven years in the making is finally closer to reality as city council approved funding Tuesday to assist a nonprofit opening its doors in a new facility.
The Salvation Army purchased property in 2016 for a little more than $1 million to combine its two downtown locations and expand services. Wilmington City Council unanimously approved $1.3 million of American Rescue Plan Act money to build a road, creating a direct connection to the new campus.
The nonprofit began looking for new locations in 2015. Its current facility — on North 2nd Street — was damaged by Hurricane Florence in 2018 and offers insufficient space and amenities, according to Salvation Army director Maj. Ken Morris. The shelter currently only houses individuals, not families. It has capacity for 32 people — though the new building will have adequate rooms to accommodate up to seven families, approximately 70 individuals.
Staff landed on the area near Creekwood, a qualified census tract, to build the new facility. That means at least 50% of the households have an income of less than 60% of the area median income, which is $56,000 in New Hanover County. Previous Port City Daily reporting explains the area for the new facility was chosen based on the needs of neighbors and due to the ample space for expansion.
The money the city is allocating to the Salvation Army will go toward road construction. The Salvation Army will handle the work upfront, and the road will be deeded to the city upon completion. The city is allowed per general statute to open new streets and enter into contracts to construct roadways with public money.
Costs have not yet been finalized, but Morris said the city’s grant should cover the majority. It will reimburse the nonprofit up to $1.3 million, using a portion of its $25.9 million in ARPA funding.
The U.S. Treasury allows for revenue replacement with ARPA money up to $10 million to cover costs on almost any expenditure authorized by state law.
Morris told Port City Daily the approval of funds for the new road was one of the final hurdles to finalize plans for its upcoming complex.
“We’re working with architects now and the final drawing will need to be approved by our corporate office,” he said. “As soon as that process is completed, we could put out invitations to bid.”
With supply chain issues still present, Morris doesn’t have a firm timeline for constructing the first of what he said could be up to five buildings. He said it likely would not begin within the year.
The road from N. 30th Street off Market to Kornegay Avenue will connect to the new facilities, dubbed the Center of Hope Shelter and Corps Community Center. It is slated to be built on 22 acres at 1120 N. 30th St.
The center will house a larger emergency shelter, including rooms for families, a worship area, a community center with gym, room for afterschool enrichment programs, and greenspace such as a park and ball field.
The campus will also serve daily meals to residents and the community and offer better access to services, especially for neighbors in the Creekwood and Maides Park communities.
Associated Salvation Army buildings will be constructed in phases; the first will likely open before the second is constructed. The initial building will house the emergency shelter, social services and administration aspects of the operation.
Morris explained the Salvation Army is not allowed to use corporate funds for building projects; money must be raised locally. He declined to share how much has been collected to date as many large pledges are still pending and the nonprofit may have to dip into reserve funds.
It’s also continuing to raise money for future construction, to include warehouse space.
Morris said the goal is to reserve some of the land for future growth over the next 30 years and sell off or rent out the rest to other organizations. The organization could subdivide the land; for instance, tiny home community for the unsheltered population, Eden Village, is located nearby and has shown interest, Morris said.
The subdivisions of the land cannot take place until the road is constructed to provide access.
The Salvation Army first approached city council about its request to fund the road construction in September 2021. At the time, it was about two-thirds into the design phases and had spent $250,000 in fees already.
City council began looking into viable road construction for accessing the Salvation Army’s new site seven years ago. It entered into an agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to fund an extension of Scientific Road. Due to the rising costs of construction, council voted to incorporate the project into the Independence Boulevard extension, slated to begin in 2028.
In the meantime Salvation Army is offloading at least one of its buildings — one is the current sale of its 820 North Second St. building, currently housing Salvation Army’s social services center, admin and shelter. Morris has been in talks with a few potential buyers but nothing set in stone.
Once sold, social services will move the Harrelson Center to retain downtown access to its programs and the shelter will have to temporarily shutter. The funds will help offset costs of the new campus. Morris would not provide an estimate on sale price.
The church and admin building on Third Street is not up for sale at this time.
“There are so many moving targets at this point,” Morris said.
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