Big changes will come to downtown Carrboro this spring when the Inter-Faith Council for Social Services demolishes its existing building and begins constructing a new, three-story food pantry, community kitchen and services center.
The IFC will close its building at 110 W. Main St. on March 25 and move out, IFC director Jackie Jenks announced Thursday. The administrative offices and food pantry will reopen in Chapel Hill’s Historic Town Hall, the site of the former men’s shelter and current community kitchen, at 100 W. Rosemary St. on April 1.
Construction of the $5.6 million FoodFirst project should take about a year, with a grand opening in the summer of 2020.
The project was approved by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen in 2017 after a long community conversation about other locations, the potential effect on downtown businesses, loitering and how services would be delivered. Talks with Carrboro planning staff on the final details are wrapping up now.
A campaign has raised $4.7 million so far, and a big donation is pending, campaign co-chairs Kevin Foy and Robert Dowling said.
“What IFC does for the community in partnership with the town is an extraordinary effort, and we want to re-emphasize how much we appreciate all that you do across the board,” said Foy, a former Chapel Hill mayor. “The subsidy for utilities and maintenance has been going on for the last 30 years, and we appreciate you considering continuing that.”
The Chapel Hill Town Council voted Wednesday night to let the IFC use the old Town Hall building rent-free during construction. The town also will continue to pay utilities for the building and address needed maintenance and repairs.
The men’s shelter operated for roughly 30 years on West Rosemary Street before the IFC opened its new Community House on Homestead Road in 2015. The IFC also operates Project HomeStart, a shelter for women and families also on Homestead Road.
The IFC still uses the basement and first floor of the Historic Town Hall for offices and a community kitchen that serves free meals twice daily — up to 6,000 meals a month — to between 150 and 200 people. The new FoodFirst building will let the agency serve up to 1,000 more meals a month, IFC officials have said.
The food pantry and administrative offices, which have been in the single-story, West Main Street storefront in Carrboro since 1999, will get space to add 25 percent more groceries, including fresh food, and provide cooking and nutrition classes. A covered drop-off area and loading dock will make it easier to receive and provide donations.
The move into the new building will leave Chapel Hill’s Old Town Hall vacant for the first time since 1985.
Chapel Hill officials have been talking about what to do with the 81-year-old building since being approached in 2015 by the Rev. Robert Seymour and Alan Rimer, a former Chapel Hill Museum trustee, who asked if it could be a visitors center and museum.
A town advisory group studied the possibility, presenting its findings to the council in June 2017. The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was found to be in good condition but in need of some repairs. The committee recommended using the building as a place to spotlight local history and culture.
The town hasn’t had a history museum since the former Chapel Hill Museum closed in 2010. The museum building — the former Chapel Hill Library on East Franklin Street — was sold to UNC’s Arts and Sciences Foundation in 2014.
Susan Brown, director of the Chapel Hill Public Library and executive director of community arts and culture, updated the council on the planning efforts for Historic Town Hall in October.
The focus, Brown said, is on a modern center offering traveling and digital exhibits, along with space for private and community events. Town staff also is looking for more community partners and funding, including grants, she said.
Need to know
The IFC will continue to accept food donations at the Carrboro location through March 26. Bring donations starting March 28 to the 100 W. Rosemary St. building in Chapel Hill.
Donations to IFC’s building campaign can be made online at bit.ly/2EVvPpq.