BELFAST — Donna Kelley, president and chief executive officer at Waldo Community Action Partners, has announced the acquisition of a 78-acre lot on Route 3 across from Bank of America to be the nonprofit’s future home.

“We have grown,” she said, “and our current space does not quite fit all of our needs.” The human services agency dedicated to reducing poverty has been a fixture at the Belfast Center, a former shoe factory on Field Street, for many years.

What the new facility will look like is still being ironed out, but Kelley said she would like to provide better access for her staff, clients and the community.  In an interview with The Republican Journal Sept. 9, Kelley said, “It would be wonderful to have all of our staff in one place.” Currently WCAP leases space on Searsport Avenue to accommodate its van line service, she said.

The 78-acre parcel is long, rectangular and stretches back, away from Route 3. The land sold for $895,000, according to Kelley, and is adjacent to the Tractor Supply store on two sides. Officials at WCAP identified the need for a new facility as part of a five-year strategic plan before Kelley became CEO in 2018. This spring, she said, “we started to step up” the search, establishing a building planning committee.

WCAP wanted to stay in Belfast, but found there were not a lot of buildings that met its needs. The city has been wonderful to work with, she said. Thomas Kittridge, Belfast’s economic development director, “sent us a bunch of different options.” City officials answered questions about zoning and have been helpful throughout the process, she said. “We are very appreciative, and look forward to more collaboration.”

Kelley envisions a facility with space for a small call center, classrooms, office and business space, and room for a fleet of vehicles. Offices for rent and heating assistance programs and services, early childhood administration offices, room for intake staff, finance staff and a dispatcher are also needed. Kelley estimates the growing agency now has between 155 and 160 employees.

Besides office space, Kelley said, WCAP hopes to include housing for low-income and special needs residents, as well as workforce housing. Green space with biking or hiking trails is also being considered.

The large frontage on Route 3 also lends itself to a commercial component, she said. The front road-facing section, she said, could be sold or leased for commercial development. “We’re still exploring options,” Kelley said. “The size and location of the parcel provides a lot of options,” she said, “Which we are excited to explore. We are only limited by our imagination and funding options.” Regarding funding, Kelley said the nonprofit may be eligible for grant funding or might do a capital campaign to raise needed resources.

“We are still at the exciting stage,” she said. For now, there is no timeline, but she anticipates the process could take at least two or three years, depending on what funding the agency receives. WCAP has started working internally, along with officials at the city and county levels, to figure out what needs to be done moving forward and what funding needs to be secured. “We want to be good neighbors,” she said, “and need to think through to the next steps.”

In the next few months, Kelley said, WCAP looks forward to working through the process with staff, community members and the city to devise a development plan for the site. Before going to the next phase, she said, her agency will need to prepare renderings with a site plan for the facility. Kelley said, “We’re still settling in on the reality that this can happen… .”

“The major phase was finding the location,” she said. “Now the hard part begins in starting to make it a reality for our staff and our community as well.”