Artist's rendering of proposed Kroc Center in Long Beach

We announced some disappointing news today: our Long Beach, California Kroc Center is no longer moving forward. In light of escalating costs and fund raising challenges, the project is no longer financially feasible. It just doesn’t pencil out, so it has been cancelled, permanently.

While not exactly a casualty of the recession, the current economic climate certainly didn’t help. In four years, the local Salvation Army was not able to meet their fund raising goal to build and endow the center for the future. That doesn’t bode well for the success of the project.

Back in 2004, we had the privilege of telling the world that Joan B. Kroc, wife of McDondald’s founder Ray Kroc, gave the largest individual charitable contribution in history to The Salvation Army. Through her estate, Mrs. Kroc left the Army $1.5 billion for the exclusive purpose of creating Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers in cities across the United States that would feature sports and recreation facilities, arts and literacy programs, a Salvation Army worship center and so much more.

She specifically wanted us to build in places where children and adults have limited resources, giving them opportunities to discover and develop their gifts. Here in the Western part of the country, we’ve already opened four centers: San Diego (the original Kroc Center, opened during Mrs. Kroc’s lifetime), San Francisco, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and Salem, Oregon. Honolulu and Phoenix are still in the works.

Mrs. Kroc set it up so that half of the money for each project would be used for construction and the other half for an endowment, so long as the local community could show their support and interest by raising a significant portion too. That last part proved to be the biggest challenge in Long Beach. The money didn’t come in the way we needed it to.

The County of Los Angeles and the city of Long Beach did so much to help us acquire land on which to build. They found us a plot in part of town that welcomed the idea of a Kroc Center. Unfortunately, the land is a flood detention plain and needs expensive modifications to prepare it for development.

At first the land was not a deal breaker, but over the last four years the cost of developing it almost doubled. Even if additional money could be raised to pay for it, the physical control of the land would be in the hands of the government while the maintenance costs and legal liability for any future catastrophic damage would be the Army’s. As grateful as we are to the county and city officials who tried to work out the details, we just can’t take the financial risk.

The Kroc Center in Long Beach would have been a wonderful way to care for the people of this city. Dozens of people were involved in helping to make it happen. We want to tell them thank you. And we want them to know how heartbroken we are that it didn’t come together the way we all hoped it would.

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