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Project H.O.P.E. in DeKalb: New Hope Missionary Baptist Church gets $100K from city for community center

DeKALB – Senior Pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Joe Mitchell said his congregation’s had a 16-year goal to build a gathering space and foster community in the city’s north side.

That goal is a step closer to reality as the initiative – dubbed Project H.O.P.E. which stands for health, opportunity, purpose, empowerment and education – begins development plans for a community center. Mitchell recently appeared before the DeKalb City Council to ask the city to commit to earmarking $100,000 in America Rescue Plan Act federal monies to aid the plans.

The church sits at 1201 Twombly Road in the city’s Annie Glidden North neighborhood, although Mitchell said the church owns 10 acres surrounding the church, too. The plan would build a community center on the remaining land, and be governed through the creation of a new 501C3 separate from the church.

For years, DeKalb city leaders, elected and unelected, have gathered to determine ways to target the north side neighborhood with more intentional development, better resources for the residents, improve landlord and tenant relations, and address safety in the area.

“Our goal is to really build a space that is holistic and intergenerational,” Mitchell said. “We know what’s going on in AGN [Annie Glidden North] and as a congregation I think we’ve proven ourselves for the many years that we’ve been there that we want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. And so we are 10 toes down engaging in building this community center that would not just be for the AGN but it would be for the whole community.”

City Council action aims to help promote good on the city’s north side.

The 11,000-square-foot community center would include space for, among other things, a full-sized gym, full-sized industrial kitchen, two classrooms and 800-square-feet of space second level that could be used as a small business incubator.

Renderings of the new community center to be constructed by the congregation at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood in DeKalb.

Renderings of the new community center to be constructed by the congregation at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood in DeKalb. (Provided by Joe Mitchell/)

Plans still are in the early stages, Mitchell said, though church leaders expect an estimated cost sometime in January. Mitchell said other developers have told him based on the plans, costs could come to between $2 million and $3 million. The church also plans to launch a capital campaign.

“We want to leave our options open for whatever the need is,” Mitchell said.

The church congregation in July celebrated 35 years of ministry in DeKalb, including 22 years in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood on the city’s north side.

Mitchell said 16 years ago, as part of the church’s strategic planning, leaders did a community needs assessment.

“And the information that came back overwhelmingly from the community was a need for additional coverage space in AGN,” Mitchell said. “At the time we were about 5 years into a $1.6 [million] mortgage to build the church so definitely we were not in the position to engage in that at the time. Three years ago we paid off the remaining balance that we owed for the mortgage and quickly started diving into the information we had as related to additional space.”

Project H.O.P.E. leaders have already entered into a pre-construction agreement this year with St. Charles-based Schramm Construction Corporation and Geneva-based Next Level Architects.

Senior Pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Joe Mitchell speaks to the DeKalb City Council Nov. 28, 2022 and said his congregation’s had a 16-year goal to build a gathering space and foster community in the city’s north side. The city awarded the church $100,000 to aid a plan for a community center.

Senior Pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Joe Mitchell speaks to the DeKalb City Council Nov. 28, 2022 and said his congregation’s had a 16-year goal to build a gathering space and foster community in the city’s north side. The city awarded the church $100,000 to aid a plan for a community center. (Shaw Local News Network/)

“To start dreaming out loud and start whittling down what we really could do in AGN to bring coverage space to the community,” Mitchell said.

DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes said he believes this is what the community has been wanting and what it needs.

“I thought it was a perfect opportunity for the city to be able to lean in and contribute and help with a small part of the fundraising that is going to be required,” Barnes said.

Mitchell said the church envisions the space could go a long way in promoting good in the Annie Glidden North neighborhood.

The area in question had long been subject to disinvestment by the city. Project leaders have said they would like to change that.

“When we built the church, we bought 10 acres of land,” Mitchell said. “We’ve only developed about 3 1/2 acres. So, we have about 6 1/2 acres behind the church, which we rent out to a farmer that we own that we can build this community center on.”

Barnes said the idea of a community center is great, and he knows the space will be in good hands with the leaders at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

Barnes said it’s important that that “neighborhood knows we were out there, we listened and we heard” and the city is going to make an investment.

Fourth Ward Alderman Greg Perkins questioned what’s the project’s timeline.

Mitchell replied, saying that as a congregation and as a new nonprofit organization dubbed Project H.O.P.E., they intend to begin with a new capital campaign next year to help raise the money necessary to allow construction to proceed.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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