MOUNT VERNON — Due to structural deterioration, the building on the east end of The Salvation Army lot, 206 E. Ohio Ave., will soon be demolished. Built in 1952, many residents knew the structure as The Harbor building or the Red Kettle Cafe building.
Plans call for the demolition to be complete by late November. Asbestos abatement begins this week.
“The cost of repair or renovation to bring it up to code far outweighs what we are able to handle,” said Salvation Army Capt. Christine Moretz.
The temporary plan is for the lot to be fenced off for a playground and possible off-street parking.
“The long-term plan is to move into a capital campaign for a new building,” said Moretz. “The vision is to have a more effective social services facility.”
Moretz anticipates the new building to be completed within five years.
“In 2017, a program mission study was done. From that, we have gleaned a lot of information about the needs in this community, so The Army has been looking very hard at how The Army fits into that picture for the next five years,” said Moretz. “From there, we'll have a capital campaign and build a building to enable The Army to meet the needs in the community.”
Current services such as utility assistance, a food pantry, and the hot meal program will continue in the new building. Additional services include a choice pantry and a seniors program that would work alongside The Station Break. Moretz also foresees a gym that offers open gym nights — for the community as well as teenagers — in addition to a location for youth teams to play and practice.
“We are not out to compete with the YMCA or the Escape Zone, we just want to offer another alternative,” said Moretz.
The west building, now home to The Army's administrative offices, gymnasium/cafeteria, and the chapel, will be renovated so that The Army can expand its current childcare program.
“I vision big, and then we'll do what we can do,” said Moretz. “I don't know what will come.”
One thing the new nor current building will be is a homeless shelter. Moretz said that due to the proximity of shelters in Wooster and Newark, The Army's Cleveland and New York offices will not open one in Mount Vernon.
The Salvation Army has a 130-year presence in Mount Vernon. Previous locations include Gay Street, the former movie theater on Public Square, and twice on Main Street.
The Army moved to East Ohio Avenue between East and South McKenzie streets in the early 1950s. The Army built the west building in 1994 and added the loading dock in 1999.
“If we could have redone it, we would have,” Moretz said of the upcoming demolition of The Harbor building. “We are not tearing down the past, we are building on the giants that have gone before us. We are building on what God's already done and what God will do in us and through us.”