Common Ground seeks to expand


In search of a larger space to operate, Common Ground Free Store Ministries took a first step toward making the goal a reality as part of Wednesday’s meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).

During the meeting, Common Ground received a certificate of appropriateness from the commission to construct a new building on the vacant lot at 153 E. Winter St. The lot, which is zoned B-3 as part of the Community Business District, sits within the Transitional Subdistrict of the Downtown Historic District Overlay, necessitating a review by the HPC.

A two-story building is being proposed by Common Ground, with the second story serving as office space for Common Ground and possibly other nonprofit organizations. The first floor would include a receiving and sorting area for donations, the free store area, a kitchen, a laundry area, restrooms, a coffee bar and café area for dining, and a community room.

Included in the proposal is a parking lot to be constructed at the rear of the building with access from the alley and Annette Street. Additional parking would be available along the street and, possibly, through shared access to the Delaware Eagles 376 parking lot just down the street.

The proposal drew unanimous praise from the commissioners during the meeting for the design’s reflection of the previous three buildings that existed on the site that were connected by the application of a stucco covering. The proposed design, while just one building, would give the appearance of three separate storefronts.

Common Ground has retained Clarke Architects to guide the design of the project. Clarke Architects is led by Jim Clarke, who has experience with projects falling within Delaware’s Historic District.

Speaking on the need for additional space, Common Ground Development Director Mark Reed told the commission, “The first floor is more than twice the space we’re in now, but we also understand we’re growing. We serviced 32% more families this year than we did last year, and we grew last year, so things are growing pretty rapidly. But we’re basically doubling the size of every function of the store, which was our goal in the beginning.”

Reed added that should Common Ground need to move up to a larger space in the years to come, the quality of the proposed building will move easily in the market.

If ultimately constructed, the new location will be a short walk from the current Common Ground location at 193 E. Central Ave. Reed said keeping the new location close to its current location is imperative in any expansion plans.

“The guiding principle is not to leave our most vulnerable folks behind who don’t have transportation, so we felt very strongly that we needed to be close to where we are now or even closer to the inner city for that very reason,” Reed said.

Common Ground must now submit development plans to the Delaware Planning Commission for further review and potential recommendation to the Delaware City Council.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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