Update on the search for possible appropriate alternative FoodFirst sites

Hey everyone, 

Honored to be posting for the first time on Orange Politics. Here's an update as to where the IFC is at with regards to finalizing a location for FoodFirst.

Following the November 2015 Board of Alderman meeting, Inter-Faith Council (IFC) renewed its search for possible appropriate alternative sites for its FoodFirst project. Joining IFC's senior staff and board president in this process were representatives from the Carrboro business community, Gordon Merklein, Executive Director of real estate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Aaron Nelson, President, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce. The group met on December 18, January 8 and February 5. The search considered a variety of factors such as topography, site restrictions, access to transportation, availability, space for programs, and room for growth. Of primary concern was how each site positively or negatively affected FoodFirst programming.

IFC analyzed ten sites besides 110 West Main. None of the ten sites was feasible for a variety of factors most notably, availability and site restraints.

In early March one of the ten sites rejected due to availability was listed for sale so IFC has reconsidered it. IFC asked its architect, Jim Spencer, to prepare a site analysis to determine if the buildable area on the site could support the FoodFirst program and how physical site constraints would affect design and expense. We expect his report mid-May. That due diligence for this single alternative site is still underway has been communicated to the Town of Carrboro and the community.

IFC will continue its due diligence of site factors, programming capacity and costs in May. The Board will review the suitability of the alternative site regarding programming and expense at its May board meeting and determine whether the site warrants further due diligence work  related to zoning, adjacent uses, neighborhood concerns and other factors. We expect IFC’s Board's final decision on this due diligence by the end of June 2016.

Wishing you the best,



There has been some mis-information circulating through socal media about the response to potential sites for FoodFirst. There was a petition circulated in the fall calling for the IFC to look for an alterntive site and signed by a number of people involved with businesses in downtown Carrboro.

More recently, another individual involved with the downtown business community, out of concern for the amount of money the IFC is having to expend to look for potential FoodFirst sites, started to solicit for donations to help defray those costs. This was not something requested by the IFC, although Michael Reinke did provide information on the costs of that search when asked by this concerned citizen.

Perhaps we can use this space to clear up any other mis-conceptions around FoodFirst. 

In the Chapel Hill News this past Sunday (May 28, 2016), reporter Tammy Grubb wrote a piece about decisions around the siting of IFC’s FoodFirst community food project:

To provide some clarification*:

  • The IFC has held two meetings with community members who live in the historically African American neighborhood behind the proposed alternative site for FoodFirst (303 Jones Ferry Road) and is continuing to engage neighbors. The IFC and it’s board take very seriously what these community members feel about hosting this social service in their neighborhood and are committed to listening and providing as much information as possible prior to making any decisions about the site.
  • Although the manager of Carr Mill Mall was the only business person quoted in this story, there are business owners who are in support of FoodFirst being at 110 West Main in Carrboro. I have worked with them as part of the Carrboro Community Conversations we have held this winter and spring.
  • Both the 110 West Main site and the 303 Jones Ferry alternative site have multiple pros and cons. This will not be an easy decision for the IFC board to make. We are working closely with IFC staff, our lawyer, and architect (plus the potential developers of the 303 Jones Ferry site – who also developed the new PTA Thrift Shop and are currently building Shelton Station) to learn as much as we can upfront to make our decision.
  • The information we are collecting and reviewing includes programming we’d like to see at FoodFirst, parking requirements, legal ramifications of having an ephemeral stream on property (303 Jones Ferry), cost of construction, public transit availability, need to relocate during construction, community relations/outreach, need for a text amendment (303) and a conditional re-zoning permit (both sites), length of time until FoodFirst could open it’s doors (use of the community kitchen on Rosemary Street is time limited by the town of Chapel Hill) and of course, what works best for clients.
  • The IFC and it’s board are very interested in how we might operate FoodFirst and other food programming in a way that can help move people out of poverty in addition to providing food for our neighbors who are food insecure. Potential programs to do this include models like the Daily Table, InterFaith Food Shuttle’s Culinary Training Program, and the F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone.


*I was recently invited to join the IFC Board and became a board member on April 20, 2016.


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