Cultural centers

Public hearing on proposed cultural and retreat center draws crowds | News

LUCI WELDON/The Warren File

Norlina City Hall is packed as the city’s board of adjustments holds a public hearing Thursday night regarding Kenya Christian Fellowship in America’s plans to build a retreat and cultural center in the city’s offshore jurisdiction.

“God led us to the town of Norlina.”

So Kenya Christian Fellowship in America President Joseph Okello told the public as they filled Norlina Town Hall meeting space on April 14 for a public hearing regarding the Fellowship’s plans to build a retreat and cultural center within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The Norlina Board of Adjustment hosted the hearing to allow local residents to learn more about the project, ask questions and provide feedback on the project plans. A number of representatives from the Kenya Christian Fellowship in America accompanied Okello to discuss the various elements that make up the proposed cultural and retreat center.

The Fellowship, a Tennessee nonprofit with an office in Raleigh, was founded in the United States in 1991. The retreat and cultural center would be located on just over 74 acres off Heaven Street which, according to a deed filed in the Warren County Register of Deeds Office, the nonprofit purchased from Timothy J. Hawks for an estimated $176,000.

Joseph Okello.jpg

LUCI WELDON/The Warren File

Kenya Christian Fellowship in America President Joseph Okello explains why Norlina was chosen as the location for the proposed center.

“We are thrilled with the possibilities God has for us,” Okello said.

He described a major component of the ministry of the fellowship working together to reach the lives of young people. Okello said the retreat and cultural center will not only benefit KCFA but also provide many opportunities for the community.

Other representatives of the nonprofit organization indicated that several factors seemed to suggest that God was leading the nonprofit organization onto the property near the Norlina town limits: other potential locations did not worked or didn’t seem to work, reps who visited the Norlina site immediately fell in love with the location, and when they saw the property was located just off Heaven Street, they knew it was the right one. location. The official address would be 621 Heaven St., Norlina.

The construction project is expected to be completed in phases over a period of up to 15 years. Plans call for the completed campus to include a visitor center, museum/library, African culture center, agriculture, college, sports and recreation, auditorium and theatre, banquet hall, hall dining hall, residence, chapel/wedding pavilion, chalets, pavilion, children and youth center and memorial garden.

JCFA plans to take advantage of the natural topography of the land by incorporating its hills and water features into the construction plans.

Representatives said its liberal arts college would be open to the community. The African Cultural Center would be designed to bring visitors to the Center’s campus to an area that resembles Kenya.

Representatives also noted that the on-campus sports complex will provide space for basketball, an Olympic-size swimming pool, space for track and field events and a soccer field that would be open to the community. The Center’s performing arts center, banquet and dining halls, and other on-campus facilities would also be open to the community, with features such as classrooms, banquet halls for 600 people, and a cafeteria for 700 people.

The project is also expected to bring natural gas to the site and neighboring properties.

KCFA representatives expressed the goal of preserving the natural beauty of the area, designing the residences for conferences, the chalets around the lake, the pavilions in the wooded area and other facilities around the natural aspects of the property. . Representatives noted that the pavilions would provide space for the community for meetings, breakout sessions, weddings, church conferences and other activities. KCFA highlighted plans for a wedding chapel that could seat 300 people and an auditorium that would provide classrooms and meeting space.

The non-profit organization anticipates that the center will bring a number of benefits to the community, including benefits for the economy, employment, use of facilities, sports facilities and other opportunities that may not be available in the local community, such as sports clinics.

The KCFA said the project is currently in the planning phase and will move into the design phase pending the necessary approvals from the Norlina Board of Adjustment and the Norlina City Council.

In response to questions from the audience, KCFA representatives framed the mission of the Fellowship as presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ, making disciples and training them in God’s world. The representatives indicated that the organization is not only for people of Kenyan descent, but is designed for all Christians.

Responding to further questions from the public, KCFA representatives said the college to be established at the site would offer the types of courses and degrees typically available at liberal arts colleges. KCFA also hopes to connect with schools in Warren County about resources the retreat and cultural center may be able to offer local students.

Norlina operations manager Blaine Reese said that because the site is in an agricultural residential area, a special use permit will be required.

Several residents asked about a possible turning lane. Reese responded that the North Carolina Department of Transportation should conduct a traffic study before making plans for a potential turn lane.

Additional public sessions may be scheduled as the retreat and culture center project progresses.