Real Estate - Commercial

Nonprofit Aims To Turn Former Fire Station Into Boarding School

By Emma Dill, posted Mar 7, 2024
A site plan shows plans for a proposed boarding school at 3933 Princess Place Drive in Wilmington. (Courtesy of city of Wilmington)
A local nonprofit with plans to convert a former Princess Place Drive fire station into a boarding school gained initial approval from Wilmington planning leaders on Wednesday.

Leading into New Communities Inc. (LINC) is proposing renovations that would turn a former fire station at 3933 Princess Place Drive into a group home that will house a 14-month program catering to at-risk men, aged 15 to 18, LINC executive director Frankie Roberts told the Wilmington Planning Commission on Wednesday.

The planning commission unanimously approved LINC’s request to rezone the 0.8-acre property from a residential district to an office and institutional district. The rezoning will next go to the Wilmington City Council for final approval. 

The nonprofit also will need to secure a special use permit from the city before the project can move forward, according to Wilmington Zoning Administrator Kathryn Thurston. 

LINC’s mission is to help provide transitional living and case management services to meet the needs of men and women returning from prison. The group also offers L.I.T.E. Manhood, a program that aims to mentor, support and develop young men in the community. 

Wilmington leaders approved transferring the fire station, which is near the intersection of Princess Place and Barclay Hills Drives, to LINC in 2021. The fire station was constructed in 1972 and decommissioned in 2019.

Roberts said his group has long been interested in the site because of its existing residential space.

“We actually requested this building … in 2016 when we knew the fire station was closing,” he told members of the planning commission. “Since it was residential for firemen, we thought that it would be a good use for some of the youth we serve.”

Roberts plans to renovate the building into a boarding school that will offer a 14-month program for young Black men, including those who have dropped out of school. The program will provide participants with a pathway to earn a graduate equivalency degree or GED, a certificate from Cape Fear Community College and general life skills, Roberts said.

“These gentlemen will become a positive influence on their peers, we will restore trust in some of the neighborhoods with young men,” he added, “and we look at this as a revitalization effort.”

The existing building is laid out with two wings that are separated in the middle by a garage. One of the wings will become the living quarters for program participants while the other will house a kitchen, dining area and lounge along with offices for LINC staff. The garage is set to become a trades classroom, according to renderings included in rezoning documents.

Participants could get into the program by being referred through the court system or another local organization or by a family member. The residential program is expected to include between 10 to 12 participants at a time, Roberts said. The group plans to involve residents from the surrounding neighborhood in interviews with prospective participants.

The boarding school will offer structured programming, Roberts said, and will include 24/7 staffing.
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