FORT PIERCE— Three months ago, the city was ready to lease the entire Means Court Elementary building to nonprofit Incubate Neighborhood Center, leaving another nonprofit, Lincoln Park Main Street without a home. But now the city has backtracked from that decision.
Main Street may be able to stay in the historic city-owned building — once the only school in St. Lucie County for Black students — after the Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency Tuesday unanimously approved negotiating for the nonprofit to lease about 1,900 square feet of the building on 13th Street.
But there’s one caveat: Even if it signs a lease, Lincoln Park Main Street can’t move back in. The building is closed because it’s not up to code, and City Hall won’t let any organization operate there until improvements are made.
Lincoln Park Main Street representatives could not be reached for comment.
Incubate Neighborhood Center — which offers home-ownership, workforce-development and financial-lending programs in Lincoln Park — leased the majority of the building in October 2021 for a community resource hub. Lease terms make the organization responsible for getting the building up to code, city officials said.
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Lincoln Park Main Street, an organization dedicated to revitalizing the Avenue D corridor, had a one-year lease for a portion of the building and briefly shared Means Court with Incubate Neighborhood Center.
But after that lease ended, the FPRA board picked Incubate Neighborhood Center, also known as INC., in late November over Lincoln Park Main Street to lease of 1,900 square feet at Means Court, a deal that would have given INC. the entire building instead of again sharing it with Lincoln Park Main Street.
But now, the city has reversed course, largely concerned both with leaving Main Street without office space and over INC.’s failure to complete building repairs.
“INC. has not performed in acceptable capacity, so I decided that we are not going to give them more space if they can’t handle the existing space,” City Manager Nick Mimms told the FPRA board. “… This has been happening for more than 100 days. It’s an ongoing issue.”
INC. experienced delays with architectural plans for the repairs, according to Canieria Gardner, its CEO.
“We have actively been working on this for months,” she told TCPalm. “I hope we can get back into the building very soon.”
In the coming months, the city and Lincoln Park Main Street will negotiate a lease and bring it back to the FPRA board for review while INC. works to get the roughly 25,000-square-foot building up to code.
“It’s a shame to me that this building is now closed, and this activity has stopped,” Mayor Linda Hudson said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I want both organizations to be able to thrive.”