Although the mission and the burgeoning hipster district may seem a jarring juxtaposition, Capponi, the contractor and volunteer, said the gentrification is good for the institution’s residents and graduates, providing a new source of jobs in restaurants and shops as well as fewer traps to fall into as the area’s crime and drug trafficking dwindle.
“It all starts to come together,’’ Capponi said. “Before, that neighborhood was isolated. Now, you walk one block over and you’re in Wynwood. Pretty soon, that’s going to be a happening place and integration will be very important.
“The reason I really like the Rescue Mission program is that, if you check in here for a year and a half, you will get a new shot at life. Do you think it would be healthier for you where there is functioning society a block away, or a bunch of crackheads standing on the corner?’’
Acquisition of the warehouse was the result of a combination need and sudden opportunity, Brummitt said. After the economic recession, demand for services increased sharply. But post-recession, so did real-estate prices in the hot neighborhood, limiting prospects for expansion.
At the existing men’s center, Brummitt said, “we were getting overrun.’’ So when a 10,000-square-foot warehouse behind the building went up for sale, the mission jumped, dipping into reserves to purchase it for $1 million. The mission also won a $1 million federal grant to help cover the cost of renovation, which Brummitt estimates at $1.6 million. He is still out raising funds with the goal of covering the gap and $800,000 for two years of operating costs.
“It was a great opportunity,’’ he said. “There are big players out here buying up property. We got a pretty doggone good deal for that area. It was a win-win situation for us and the community.’’
Brummitt then turned to Capponi, who had become a big supporter after overcoming his own bout of drug abuse and homelessness, and who now helps organize an annual Thanksgiving feast that feeds 2,5000 people as well as other holiday events at the mission. Capponi also recently helped the mission, which also runs centers in Broward County, build out a new health clinic.
The warehouse had a new roof, but it required structural reinforcement to hold air-conditioning equipment. The building also had to be tied into the city sewer system, and needed new doors and hurricane windows, not to mention interior walls, bathrooms and insulation.
“It was nothing, just a concrete shell,’’ Capponi said.
But he wanted to keep costs down, so he asked Karp, a friend, and a group of subs who routinely work on his jobs, typically mansions and luxury housing, to work cheap.
“We give them a lot of business and we leveraged that,” Capponi said. “This job is definitely subsidized by giving them a lot of work all year round.
“This is straight from the heart. If I had more money I would have paid for it. We want to make the mission is a bigger place to serve more people, and we do what we can.’’