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Downtown Facility's Expansion Frees Up New Office Suites In Former Jail

By Cece Nunn, posted Jun 28, 2023
Claire Rico of The Harrelson Center in downtown Wilmington cleans windows in the center's latest phase of renovations. (Photo by Cece Nunn)
As she led a tour Monday of newly renovated space in a former New Hanover County jail, Meade Van Pelt's relief was palpable.

"We've been so full...we have been at capacity and not been able to take any new [nonprofit partners] in like two years," said Van Pelt, executive director of The Harrelson Center, a campus of nonprofit organizations at 20 N. Fourth St.

The latest project for the center, a former county law enforcement facility that has been used by nonprofit groups since 2005, will help meet more needs. Crews are nearly finished with the final phase of transforming old jail cells (including replacing tiny, escape-proof windows with large, inviting ones) into additional nonprofit space.

Valued at $1.5 million, the center's last phase completes eight office suites in a portion of The Harrelson Center "that had been only roughed in" previously, according to a news release. The work is being funded through gifts, grants and a capital campaign completed in 2022.

The latest office spaces available, located on the fourth and fifth floors of the center in its Vicki Dull Annex, range from 1,774 to 2,263 square feet, the release stated. Two of the eight suites have already been leased – one to Foster Pantry, an organization that provides necessities to foster children and families, and another to Legal Aid of North Carolina, for criminal record expungement services.

"Qualifying tenants must be registered with the IRS and have a verifiable 501c3 designation and be accepted as a partner through the Center’s Board application process," the release stated. "For more information visit harrelsoncenter.org or call 910-343-8212."

Rates are around $15 per square foot, Van Pelt said, and three years is the standard lease duration. Tenants also have access to parking, conference rooms and Plaza on Princess, a more than 8,000-square-foot event venue. 

The Harrelson Center has occupied the former jail since it was relocated at the end of 2004 and FBC Holdings purchased the property, with a gift from local developer Bobby Harrelson in memory of his late wife, Jo Ann Carter Harrelson, the release stated.

The center's campus currently holds 21 partner nonprofit organizations, with another 17 associate partners off campus. 
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