After sitting idle for about a decade, the site for the future home of the Salvation Army of Cape Fear will soon see construction activity.
Plans for a two-phase development on the 22-acre site were submitted this week to Wilmington’s Technical Review Committee. Maj. Kenneth Morris, who heads the organization, is optimistic the city will approve the project.
“We’re waiting for final clearance from the city, but we’ve been working with them,” Morris said Thursday, adding that city officials have had the plans for a while and no objections have surfaced. The property at 1220 N. 30th St. in the Creekwood neighborhood also fronts onto Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
Morris acknowledged construction of the new campus has been a long time coming. “Our fundraising has not gone as smoothly as we had hoped, but we’re thrilled that we now have the funds for the first phase, which will replace our shelter.”
The Center of Hope Shelter, a 21,641-square-foot facility, will provide accommodations for men as well as families, Morris said. It replaces the Salvation Army’s homeless shelter on North Second Street downtown.
“The old one was crowded,” Morris said of the former, smaller shelter, which housed men only. “This shelter will be on one level and will be able to accommodate men and from five to seven families, depending on the family size.”
The Second Street facility, which also housed a social services center, closed in May after the city of Wilmington purchased the property for $4.8 million earlier in the year. The sale proceeds are helping fund phase 1.
Estimates of the project's cost are just rough guesses at this point, according to Morris, who said that he is confident his organization has the money to complete phase 1 but has not received updated projections from Salvation Army regional headquarters in Atlanta. Earlier figures predate the COVID pandemic.
"Atlanta has told us that costs can vary depending on where and when construction takes place," he said, adding that the timeframe for completing phase 1 could be as short as six months or as long as a year.
The Salvation Army continues to help homeless men from its five-county service area with emergency housing in hotels and other locations, Morris said. Its downtown thrift store and offices are lodged temporarily in the Harrelson Center, where organization leaders hope to have an ongoing presence even after the new campus is built. To better serve its expansive service area, the Salvation Army has opened a branch in Elizabethtown and has plans for another branch in Hampstead.
Morris is optimistic that site development on the new Wilmington campus will begin in late 2023 or early 2024. Fundraising for phase 2, which includes the community center and sports fields, is ongoing, he said, with conversations underway with foundations and potential donors.
The community center will house classrooms, offices, a gym and a chapel. It will be a place for the entire neighborhood, according to Morris, offering recreation, after-school help, GED classes and social services. The organization is already working with nearby Eden Village to forge a partnership.