Salvation Army plans major renovation project

JUSTIN SORENSEN / NNY BUSINESS
The Salvation Army at 723 State Street plans to purchase these three structures next door to the west to create a parking lot, green space and 1000 sq foot additional kitchen and dining hall.

The Salvation Army’s worship and service center on State Street is so crammed for space that next month’s pancake breakfast will again be held in the gymnasium.

But local Salvation Army officials hope that will change as they plan for a $300,000 to $400,000 renovation project, the first in almost 20 years at the center, 723 State St.

Edward G. Olley Jr., chairman of the organization’s property committee, outlined the plans during Monday night’s City Council meeting.

The project, to be completed in phases, would entail building an approximate 1,000-square-foot addition to increase the size of its cramped kitchen and dining hall and create some much needed parking and green space outside.

“We have a building and a parking lot and that’s all,” Mr. Olley said

Salvation Army officials hope to purchase an adjacent parcel at 715 State St. that contains three- and two-family homes and a former office building, all of which they plan to demolish. It would make room for additional parking and green space in its place.

Mr. Olley and Commander Maj. Robin J. Holmes attended Monday’s meeting to request funding from the city’s Community Development Block Grant program to help pay the costs of tearing down the three vacant structures.

Salvation Army officials are working with an unidentified individual who would finalize the deal to purchase the parcel and then sell it to the organization, Maj. Holmes said.

They are using that approach because of the lengthy time it will take for approvals from Salvation Army regional and district officials before construction can begin, Maj. Holmes said. The property, owned by Shirley Kehoe, Syracuse, is assessed at $112,300.

The expanded kitchen and dining room and green space would help better serve its clients, Maj. Holmes said.

Running six days a week, the soup kitchen serves about 75 clients a day. As many as 80 children participate at the “drop-in center” during the summer and about 50 children daily for the after-school program.

The Salvation Army’s last major project occurred in 1998 when $65,000 was raised to install carpeting, make rest rooms handicapped-accessible and repaint and put in a new hardwood gym floor.

The organization is now planning for one of its major fundraising efforts with a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 2 that costs $8 for adults and $3 for children.

Citing its help to people in need, council members expressed support for the project.

Councilman Stephen A. Jennings said it would help a declining area of the city.

“I think it would enhance the neighborhood and that part of State Street,” he said.

The city is putting together its 2017-18 CDBG program. Without the CDBG money, the Salvation Army would not be able to proceed with the project, Mr. Olley said. Council members are expected to vote on the city’s program in May.

From there, the city must submit its annual action plan to the state Department of Housing and Urban Development by May 15.

As an entitlement program, the city receives about $800,000 for its CDBG efforts. The city plans to set aside about $100,000 for building demolition, said Michael A. Lumbis, the city planning and community development director.

The city also plans to use the funding this year to improve rental housing and owner-occupant homes, install handicapped-accessible ramps along city sidewalks and pay for homeless assistance, other sidewalk repairs and assisting the city school district’s student-food backpack program.