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Salvation Army seeking new home after CMS buys building

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David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has purchased the building the Salvation Army has leased for seven years. Its current lease ends in 2016.

Charlotte’s Salvation Army command is looking for a new headquarters after learning last week that its home of seven years on Stuart Andrew Boulevard is being taken over by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as its own headquarters.

On Tuesday, the school board approved a deal with the county that will give CMS 152,000 square feet in three buildings at the Atrium Corporate Center. The 9-acre site, near the intersection of Interstate 77 and Billy Graham Parkway, is home to the Salvation Army and about a dozen other tenants, CMS officials said.

Salvation Army officials say they have been told that their lease will be honored, allowing them to stay in 13,000 square feet of the site until spring 2016. CMS also has assured the nonprofit that it will not raise the rent.

But area commander Maj. Bobby Lancaster said his agency intends to immediately start looking for a suitable new headquarters and is hoping the community will help with suggestions. It would be the fourth time the Salvation Army command has moved its Charlotte headquarters, he said.

“They (CMS) are not pushing us out of here,” Lancaster said. “There is no conflict, and it is on our backs to begin the process of finding something.”

The Salvation Army has 10 sites in the community, including offices for the Center of Hope shelter for women and children, an alcohol and drug rehab center for men, and Boys and Girls Clubs meeting halls. The agency owns only four of those sites, and none is large enough to hold the administrative staff of 20, Lancaster said.

Dennis LaCaria of CMS said Friday that all tenants of Atrium Corporate Center are being told their leases will be honored if they choose to stay. The site includes a six-story building and two single-floor structures.

CMS expects to move about 600 employees to the new location. Mecklenburg County commissioners bought the Atrium property this year, and CMS will acquire the site as part of a land-swap deal involving the former Education Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in uptown.

LaCaria noted CMS does not have a date set for moving into the new space, though some smaller teams might move soon into those areas that are vacant.

CMS first needs to do renovation on the site, he said, including upgrades, additional restrooms and reconfiguring space. LaCaria said the required occupancy plans, hiring an architect and letting of contracts will mean months of work. The county agreed to contribute $2.5 million to upfit the buildings.

“Best case: 12 months to start the move in earnest,” he said.

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