Non-profit has plans for downtown

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

A Colorado nonprofit organization has purchased the Teppers building, and plans to announce a $1.5 million purchase and renovation project executives said will return the building to its place of prominence.

Though the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Mark Duke, chief executive director of the Parker, Colo.,-based Freedom Foundation, said they have preliminary architectural drawings and plans that include an atrium atop the four-story building. It is the tallest building in the downtown area, located on Broad Street at Alabama Avenue.

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Duke, 49, was in town this week to solidify the real estate deal on Friday and to meet people in the community. He pastors a non-denominational church near Denver, and is a native of North Carolina.

Duke knows small town people may be skeptical of an outside entity with big plans, but he said he has ties to the community that go back to his father bringing him to Selma as a child during the 1960s following the voting rights demonstrations.

Plans call for the total renovations of the structure, which has a basement and four floors. It will have multiple uses. Duke said he sees it as a place for people to come together.

“We’re going to tear the siding down and make it (the building) like it used to be,” Duke said.

Duke said they plan to open a coffee shop, an ice cream parlor, with computers and couches like an Internet caf. It will include a restaurant with sandwiches and a light fare. There will be youth programs such as theatre and family services.

News of the sale was much welcomed by the City of Selma. Director of Planning and Development Charlotte Griffeth said the plans they have seen would help aesthetically and “enhance downtown.”

The Freedom Foundation had been sponsoring youth visits of the California-based Sojourn To The Past, and Duke decided to return to Selma to the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute, which prompted him to get further involved.

Joanne Bland said she met Duke and the next day she got a call from the foundation to meet him for lunch.

“He asked me to prioritize some needs,” Bland said. “No. 1 was the roof. Less than two weeks later, the work had begun.”

The Freedom Foundation’s mission statement says the foundation “seeks to help individuals and families by offering well rounded support designed to yield greater freedom, from the issues that plague people from all walks of life. With the talents and gifts of dedicated volunteers, the Freedom Foundation services include financial assistance, health care, children’s services and life coaching.”