CARRBORO — After pausing to consider an alternate site for its community kitchen, the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service will move forward with an application to put a kitchen at its current site in downtown Carrboro.
The IFC’s Board of Directors voted unanimously late Wednesday to continue with plans to build at 110 West Main St. That site has already cleared one hurdle — the Board of Aldermen approved in March a text amendment that would allow the IFC to apply to build the kitchen, which would serve free meals to IFC clients.
The plan sparked controversy, spurring a petition signed by many business owners and more than two hours of public comment at a hearing before the Board of Aldermen.
Before releasing plans to locate the kitchen on Main Street, the IFC considered ten sites other than West Main. None were feasible because of site restraints or lack of availability.
But when one of the original ten sites — 303 Jones Ferry Road — came up for sale, the IFC began to examine the property more closely.
After about four months of study, the IFC determined that the downtown site was better suited for the facility.
“In the end, after doing some really careful analysis, we couldn’t say this site is better and this site is not as good,” Michael Reinke, executive director of the IFC, said.
Reinke said there were several different factors that played into the decision. The West Main site is better connected by public transit, which many of the IFC’s clients rely on.
The downtown location would also be valuable to clients because of its proximity to other social services and local businesses, allowing a “one-stop shopping” experience, Reinke said.
Acquiring the new building would also lead to considerable financial risk, Reinke said, whereas the IFC owns the building at 110 West Main.
Reinke estimates that even studying the feasibility of the Jones Ferry site cost the IFC more than $20,000, with $5,000 spent just to ensure the property wouldn’t be sold in the middle of the study.
The plan for the West Main site is to build a kitchen alongside the existing food pantry to consolidate the IFC’s services in one location.
The IFC kitchen has been operating out of a property on West Rosemary Street for about 29 years. Reinke said the town of Chapel Hill rents the property to the IFC at a very low rate, but the town has expressed interest in other uses for the property within the next few years.
The next step for the IFC is to prepare a petition for conditional rezoning, which Reinke estimates could take a couple of months.
But before presenting the petition to the Board of Aldermen, he said, the IFC will make sure the plans are available to the public.
Reinke said he’s valued everyone’s input on the project so far and that the IFC doesn’t want to surprise anyone in the community.
“We’re going to make sure everyone is involved in the conversation,” he said.