The Opportunity Center from Homes of Hope is a renovation project in North Charleston, South Carolina, that will bring three, local, non-profits under one roof, while also creating space for up to three startups and a community training room. The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is a supporter of the project through a below-market loan. The Upstate Business Journal recently wrote about how the non-profit hub will bring new life to a now empty warehouse and will serve as a model for future non-profits.
The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
The full text of the Upstate Business Journal is below or available here.
by Evan Peter Smith
Upsate Business Journal
Here’s an odd question:
What does an old furniture warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina, have to do with Greenville?
The answer, for now, might not be obvious. But that old warehouse may soon be a model for what is possible here in Greenville and beyond when it comes to empowering nonprofits, small businesses and those looking to advance their careers.
Work is well underway to transform that old warehouse on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston into “The Opportunity Center,” a 33,000-square-foot space that aims to be a new kind of business and nonprofit incubator. The project is a venture of Homes of Hope, the Greenville-based nonprofit that aims to “open doors for economic mobility through housing, economic and workforce development,” according to Don Oglesby, president and CEO of Homes of Hope.
What Oglesby envisions is a one-stop shop for economic growth all based within one aptly-named opportunity center.
“It will function as a collaborative epicenter existing for small business development growth, as well as offering help for startups, focusing on minority-owned businesses, workforce development training, financial resources for small businesses, and a vehicle for asset growth,” Oglesby said.
There are no plans yet for where or when a Greenville version of The Opportunity Center will open, but Oglesby said Homes of Hope is “definitely open to the possibility.”
“Through co-ownership of the building, each will accomplish asset growth leading to greater financial sustainability for their organizations, leading to even greater community and state-wide impact,” said Oglesby.
He sees the new model as his organization taking one step back in the process, one step earlier. By providing fertile soil for nonprofits to grow and thrive, a greater number of organizations can do the work Homes of Hope would have aimed to do itself – thereby serving a greater number of people.
“It’s a new way of looking at things,” Oglesby said, “and we think it’s the way things are heading.”
Homes of Hope has purchased, will fully renovate and will then own the Class A building itself — for now — in which three minority, Charleston area nonprofit organizations will be housed. That “for now” is important to note, because the goal is to allow these well-established nonprofits to occupy the space for a set period of months, before the nonprofits take joint ownership of the building, each owning 32%. Homes of Hope will keep 4% equity in the building as an investment. But otherwise, the nonprofits are entirely independent.
The Charleston Opportunity Center will house these organizations:
But while the nonprofits will jointly own 96% of the building, they will only occupy about a third of the building. The remainder of the space will be leased out to other nonprofits or private companies, while additional space will be relegated for an 80-seat training center that can be reserved by any tenants or rented out.
A Small Business Success Center and a Women’s Business Center, funded in part by the Small Business Administration, will also be located in the additional space within the building to provide career advancement training and workforce development.
The center held a soft opening in mid-January but will hold a grand opening this month, once up-fitting is fully complete.
Oglesby said the center is the next step for Homes of Hope, an organization that is primarily known for housing but which is aiming to further expand its reach beyond mere home ownership.
“Economic development and workforce development have always been a part of our mission at Homes of Hope,” he said. “We are known for our housing throughout the state, but these other aspects of our mission are equally important.”
Oglesby says the asset growth a home can provide an individual is tremendous. The same is true when it comes to the asset growth a self-owned facility can provide a nonprofit organization.
“Through co-ownership of the building, each will accomplish asset growth leading to greater financial sustainability for their organizations, leading to even greater community and state-wide impact,” he said.
To date, Homes of Hope has invested $8 million to purchase and develop the Opportunity Center.
Support has come from:
Lending from GrandSouth Bank; A grant from the Economic Development Administration; Below-market loans from the Coastal Community Foundation and Sisters of Charity Foundation of SC.
Donations from Truist Bank, South State Bank, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, Bank of America, Rhodes/ Foundation, Gene and Doris Hunley, Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co., the City of North Charleston, and the Patrick Family Foundation, in addition to investments from the nonprofits that will be housed and co-own the space.
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