As quietly as a $100 million project can proceed, Augusta's proposed Kroc Center is doing just that - in some ways even more ambitious than first planned.
The center, one of many around the country funded by a $1.5 billion gift to the Salvation Army by McDonald's founder Ray Kroc's widow Joan upon her death in 2003, will be a mix of recreational, cultural, humanitarian and entrepreneurial facilities in a campus off Broad Street in Harrisburg near the Augusta Canal.
The plan has been approved and money set aside; now the Salvation Army regional executives are reviewing the "program study" prepared for the site. Local director Maj. Chip Hall told the "Tuesday Roundtable" forum yesterday that program approval could come within six months or so, but that all along, plans are already being made to hire a center director, a business plan consultant and a financial feasibility company.
"We're right on track," Hall told the group. "In relation to other Kroc facilities around the country, we're about where they are."
Except for one thing: Hall thinks Augusta's campus could be a model facility.
It's certainly ambitious, with a 600-seat theater and fine arts classrooms; a 350-seat chapel; adult education and computer lab space; indoor and outdoor recreational space to be joined in by the Boys and Girls Club; and an "enterprise park" for skills training that will include teen and adult learning opportunities and even retail and banquet space.
What makes the facility plans unique, Hall said, is the extent of partnerships the Salvation Army has formed with other area nonprofits, including the United Way, Junior Achievement and many more. Fact is, he said, for its size, Augusta has the third-most number of nonprofits in the country.
The Kroc Center can help them coalesce: One of the features of the center is a one-stop shop for clients of local humanitarian agencies.
Plans have changed somewhat in the past year to shift from the Head Start program to child care for single parents who can't get jobs without it. The program study also found that adult fitness needed to be addressed, so such facilities have been added to the plan, Hall said.
Hall is most excited about the enterprise park, with its potential for skills and leadership training - teaching folks to fish, as it were.
Then again, there's a lot to be excited about in this project.