Homes of Hope’s Opportunity Center could be a model for Greenville and beyond

Here is a strange question:

What does an old furniture warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina have to do with Greenville?

The answer may not be obvious at first. But this old warehouse could soon be a model for what’s 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 convert this old warehouse on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston “The Opportunity Center” a 33,000-square-foot space that aims to be a new breed of business and non-profit incubator. The project is a venture of houses of hopethe one based in Greenville nonprofit that aims to “open doors to economic mobility through housing, economic and workforce development,” said Don Oglesby, President and CEO of Homes of Hope.

What Oglesby envisions is a one-stop shop for economic growth, all housed in an aptly named Opportunity Center.

“It will act as a collaborative epicenter for small business growth, providing help for startups focused on minority-owned businesses, workforce development training, financial resources for small businesses and a vehicle for wealth growth,” Oglesby said.

There are no plans yet as to where or when a Greenville version of the Opportunity Center will open, but Oglesby said Homes of Hope is “definitely open to the possibility.”

“By co-owning the building, everyone will achieve wealth growth that leads to greater financial sustainability for their organizations, leading to an even greater impact on the community and the entire state.” – Don Oglesby

He sees the new model as taking his organization one step back in the process, one step earlier. By providing fertile ground for nonprofit organizations to grow and thrive, a greater number of organizations can do the work that Homes of Hope itself would have strived to do—and thus serve a greater number of people.

“It’s a new way of looking at things,” Oglesby said, “and we think things are going in that direction.”

Homes of Hope has purchased the Class A building, will completely renovate it and will then own it – for now – which will house three Charleston-area minority non-profit organizations. The “for now” is important to note, as the goal is to allow these established nonprofits to occupy the premises for a set period of months before the nonprofits take joint ownership of the building and own 32% each. Homes of Hope retains 4% equity as an investment in the building. But otherwise, the non-profit organizations are completely independent.

The Charleston Opportunity Center will host these organizations:

  • South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development
  • Increasing Hopes Community Development Corporation
  • Center for Preservation of Wealth of Heirs

But while the nonprofits collectively own 96% of the building, they will occupy only about a third of the building. The remainder of the space will be leased to other non-profit or private companies, while additional space will be reserved for an 80-seat training center, which is available for reservation or rental by all tenants.

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 spaces within the building to provide professional development and people development.

The center had a pre-opening in mid-January but will hold a grand opening this month once the facility is fully complete.

Oglesby said the center is the next step for Homes of Hope, an organization best known for homebuilding but aims to expand its reach beyond just homeownership.

“Economic development and people development have always been part of our mission at Homes of Hope,” he said. “We’re known statewide for our shelters, but these other aspects of our mission are just as important.”

Oglesby says the wealth growth a home can offer an individual is tremendous. The same is true when it comes to the wealth growth that a nonprofit organization’s own establishment can offer.

“By co-owning the building, everyone will achieve wealth growth that will result in greater financial sustainability for their organizations, leading to an even greater impact on the community and the state as a whole,” he said.

To date, Homes of Hope has invested $8 million in the purchase and development of the Opportunity Center.

Support came from:

Loan from GrandSouth Bank

A grant from the Economic Development Agency

Subpar loans from Coastal Community Foundation and SC’s Sisters of Charity Foundation

Donations from Truist Bank, South State Bank, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, Bank of America, Rhodes/ Foundation, Gene and Doris Hunley, Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co., City of North Charleston and Patrick Family Foundation Investments from non-profit organizations who will be accommodated and co-own the space.

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