BELFAST — As construction of the new Belfast Soup Kitchen building on Belmont Avenue in Belfast nears its finish, the nonprofit whose mission is to “provide a safe community where our guests can find food, comfort and hope for the future in an atmosphere of dignity and respect,” anticipates a spring opening.
The new location, further west at 29 Belmont Ave. (Route 3), is to provide a permanent home for the organization. But being further west on the road has raised some citizen concern about pedestrian accessibility to the new building.
In May 2019, the nonprofit’s board of directors announced construction had begun on the 3,400 square foot building providing the organization not only with a permanent facility, but also with a commercial kitchen, food storage facilities and serving area.
The new facility will also allow the organization to expand relationships with other area nonprofits for programs, including health screenings, adult literacy, and nutrition education.
“The new building design criteria are a high degree of energy efficiency, a choice of materials and features that insure low maintenance for decades, and great operational ergonomics,” the organization’s board wrote in a May 2019 Letter to the Editor. “This new building will insure financial security of the BSK with equity and low operating expense.”
Currently, the Belfast Soup Kitchen is operating from a leased facility in the Renys Plaza, located at 1 Belmont Avenue.
It is open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. starting with a coffee hour and followed by a hot lunch with take home bags of produce and baked goods.
From 2016 to 2018, the soup kitchen provided at least 20,000 meals each of those years with around 90 or more daily guests including the working poor, senior citizens, veterans, the unemployed, mentally and physically handicapped, and the homeless.
In the spring, operations will move to a newly constructed building at 29 Belmont Avenue on Route 3. The construction of the new building was made possible by donations and grants.
Though the community is elated at the construction of the new building, some have raised concern about sufficient pedestrian access to the building.
The sidewalk ends at the entrance drive of the Dairy Queen (23 Belmont Ave.) and pedestrian access to the soup kitchen would require extending the sidewalk across a private lot for a distance of 391 feet, including bridging an unnamed stream at the property boundary, according to Mary Brand, President of the Belfast Soup Kitchen Board of Directors.
Rather than adding the extra sidewalk, which would be costly for the non-profit organization, the soup kitchen was asked to provide sufficient parking to accommodate vehicles and insure access by public transportation.
“Our site plan filed with the City shows a sidewalk to the margin of Belmont Avenue, awaiting some future sidewalk,” said Brand, who noted the majority of its guests currently carpool to the Renys Plaza location and they anticipate carpooling will continue to its new location.
In addition to carpooling, there is a public bus stop at the Goose River Farms facility behind the new soup kitchen site and Brand noted the organization is exploring other transportation options.
“We applaud the efforts of the Pedestrian, Biking and Hiking Committee to expand pedestrian access wherever possible in Belfast, and look forward to their support in getting such access to the new BSK,” said Brand.