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Planned storage facility to replace Project Hope center in Fort Walton Beach

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH — Leaders of the nonprofit Project Hope Recovery Center hope to finish relocating to their new facility near Crestview by early December after having to move out of the building they had leased for the past several years on Hollywood Boulevard.

Demolition began Wednesday on the building they vacated to make room for the property owner’s planned mini-storage facility.

In July 2016, Project Hope began leasing the old Waterfront Mission building at 112 Hollywood Blvd. It housed Project Hope’s chapel and usually about two dozen men at a time who the Christian faith-based organization helped overcome substance abuse, depression and anxiety.

More (2016 photos):PHOTOS: Project Hope to open at old rescue mission

Unfortunately, Project Hope in August received a 90-day notice to vacate the building, Project Hope Chief Operating Officer Michael Vecchio said Thursday.

“It wasn’t our choice to move,” Vecchio said. “We wanted to buy the building. We love the location, love the building. But that’s not what the owner wanted to do.”

The building and the 0.87-acre site is stands on is owned by J2 Development LLC of Fort Walton Beach. The corporation’s manger is local businessman Jayme Nabors, according to the state Division of Corporations.

Crews began demolishing the Project Hope complex on Hollywood Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach on Wednesday.

“We never really had a serious discussion” with Project Hope about the organization buying the building, Nabors said. “At the end of their term, we donated equipment to them.”

Nabors said he and his business partners gave Project Hope items such as the building’s air-conditioning unit, stoves and other kitchen equipment.

He said he and his partners plan to have a mini-storage development consisting of about 400 units built on the site in about 12 months.

“Move It Storage will be the operator,” Nabors said.

He said the Waterfront Rescue Mission Thrift Store housed in the J2 Development-owned building at 110 Hollywood Blvd., next to the former Project Hope facility, will continue its operation.

Vecchio said Project Hope currently serves 21 men and has seven staff members. On Sunday, the men in recovery finished moving to a rented Airbnb property in Destin and the staff finished moving to a hotel in Fort Walton Beach, he said.

“Our other property (near Crestview) is not ready yet, and we couldn’t get a lease extension” at the Hollywood Boulevard site, Vecchio said. “I’m hoping (the temporary living situation) is just until maybe Dec. 1 or 2.”

He said that after Project Hope officials received the notice to vacate, they began looking for a property where they could run a new recovery center.

“We didn’t want to leave Okaloosa County because we have gotten so much support here, and there is a big need here” to help men in recovery, Vecchio said. “The community has a growing problem with addiction and homelessness.”

More:‘A Jesus boot camp’ Houston-based nonprofit leases old rescue mission

He said Project Hope officials found an investment group in Houston, where Project Hope’s corporate office is located, that will buy a property near Crestview and lease it to the organization for its new recovery center.

A mini-storage business will replace the Project Hope complex on Hollywood Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach.

The 3-acre property contains four houses and two modular buildings and is east of Crestview and the Shoal River and south of U.S. Highway 90.

“It’s a good setup,” Vecchio said. “We didn’t have the money set aside to purchase something else.”

Project Hope had leased the former Waterfront Rescue Mission building on Hollywood Boulevard since 2016. The ministry plans to move to a new home near Crestview.

More (May 2017):New FWB furniture store doubles as source of hope

Donations to help Project Hope transition to its new recovery center can be made online at projecthoperc.com/donations. Donors are asked to put “Florida move” in the donation memo.

Vecchio also shared some other big news on Thursday: Thanks to a $400,000 donation, Project Hope officials plan to soon close on a six-bedroom, four-bathroom house in Baker, where they hope to open a women’s recovery center called the “Saving Grace Women’s Home” by the end of this year.