The Vision

LINC Inc.’s plans to convert the decommissioned Princess Place fire station to the Hisan J. Polk Transformation Academy, a culturally and demographically-specific boarding school for at-risk African American youth in New Hanover County, moved forward with Wilmington City Council final rezoning approval in April 2024. The project had previously garnered unanimous approval from Wilmington Planning Commission to rezone the property to an office and institutional district. The vacant Wilmington Fire Station 3, at 3933 Princess Place Drive, was previously zoned residential.

LINC leadership envision renovating the fire station to accommodate a group home and boarding school tailored to young Black men who have dropped out of traditional schools. A 14-month program in partnership with Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) will empower participants to earn a GED, trade skills, a CFCC trade certificate, and general life skills. Academic and trade programming will align with the instructional capacity and course offerings of CFCC.

Participants will be referred to the boarding school from a variety of sources, including the school district, the courts, local service organizations and nonprofits, or family members. The school will be modeled on existing programs, like Laurinburg Institute (a historic African American preparatory school in southern North Carolina) and YouthBuild.


How is the boarding school related to LINC’s L.I.T.E. Manhood program?

For more than a decade, through L.I.T.E. (LINC’s Initiative to Educate), LINC has provided educational support, mentoring, after school activities, and career building resources for African American youth from ages 12 to 18.

L.I.T.E. expanded reach with new funding for Community Resource Coordinators (CRCs) through New Hanover County’s Port City United Program. The CRCs work directly with young men and women in local schools helping with academic issues and mitigating situations that could lead to conflicts. L.I.T.E grew to offer summer sessions, special activities, and educational field trips.

Through L.I.T.E.’s interaction with youth in the community, LINC leadership saw the need for a residential component to serve at risk youth. This residential component would allow staff to further serve youth who were failing academically. LINC’s experience in both schools and the community at large was the impetus for the concept of a boarding school to provide education, opportunity, and hope for young Black men who have dropped out or are struggling in traditional public/private school.

The planned boarding school, as it has evolved, will be open to any young Black man who is struggling in a traditional educational institution, not solely to L.I.T.E. program participants.


What makes the Princess Place fire station site desirable?

In 2016, when LINC leadership learned that the fire station at 3933 Princess Place was closing, and because it had been “residential” for firemen, it became an attractive site for the boarding school because the building could be easily adapted for both educational and residential use.

In 2017, LINC explored options to acquire the building.

In 2019, the fire station at 3933 Princess Place Drive was decommissioned. At that time, the City of Wilmington did not have a process to convey the property. LINC interest in the building did not wane. When the city was ready to transfer the property, LINC was poised to pursue the boarding school project.

Through studies and evaluation over the next couple years, Wilmington city staff determined the boarding school project to be consistent with the Create Wilmington Comprehensive plan. It was noted that the site is:

  • Adjacent to a high density transition area of opportunity
  • In an urban mixed-use center
  • Of great potential to accommodate growth and redevelopment per The City of Wilmington’s Growth Strategies Map

Concurrent to conversations with the City of Wilmington regarding acquisition of the property, LINC forged partnerships with neighbors, and property owners in the Barclay Hills community. Collaboration and communication between all concerned parties are key to the success of the boarding school, which will serve as a much-needed model for achievement and youth empowerment in the community. LINC is determined that this project be part of the positive revitalization of Barclay Hills.



Historically, the Princess Place fire station was where Russell Jackson, Wilmington’s first Black fire fighter, served. Jackson was the first African American employed with the Wilmington Fire Department since 1898.


How did LINC acquire the property?

The decommissioned fire station was conveyed by resolution in September 2021 by the City of Wilmington to LINC, Inc., with the condition that the property be used for an approved public purpose: housing and education. The resolution was passed unanimously. If LINC fails to use the property for the stated purpose, the property will revert back to the city.


What is the time frame for commencing redevelopment of the fire station?

Drawings have been prepared by the architecture firm Sawyer Sherwood & Associate Architecture. This process took approximately 5-6 months. (Sawyer Sherwood had previously worked with the city when previous options for the property were under discussion.)

Concurrently, conversations about zoning/rezoning requirements were undertaken.

Resolutions approving zoning were approved in April 2024.

RFPs for general contractor will be accepted in the next 30 days (April – May 2024). Renovations will be on track to commence in approximately 90 days from engaging a general contractor, and will be completed by Spring 2025.


What is the proposed budget for the boarding school project, and what are the funding sources?

The estimated construction budget is $2 million. Annual operating costs of the school will be an estimated $800,000.

Funding has been secured for construction of the project, startup, and the first year of operation from a variety of sources, including county resources, grants, and donations. LINC leadership emphasize that sustainability is a key component of planning.

Students will not be charged tuition, room, or board.

LINC has established a number of philanthropic options for donors, ranging from naming opportunities to endowed scholarships. Information can be requested from LINC’s Development Director.


Why is the boarding school named “Hisan J. Polk Transformation Academy”?

Hisan Polk was a young Black man who participated in L.I.T.E. in 2007. He was beloved, active, and well-respected. His life held infinite promise. He was lost to gun violence in a case of mistaken identity on October 19, 2014. The boarding school will be named in his memory.


What are community benefits of the boarding school?

LINC leadership see the boarding school as a community revitalization initiative for the Barclay Hills neighborhood. Community members will be part of the planning discussions, and community volunteers will participate in the admissions process to screen school applicants.

A task force was created to ensure that the school was supported by the neighbors; five community members currently sit on the task force and are participating in all phases of the planning.



What measures are being taken to reduce adverse impacts on the neighborhood?

The boarding school admissions process will be conducted by a panel consisting of community members, youth development experts, and educators, with the intention of selecting students who have the highest probability of benefiting from and successfully completing the program by attaining a GED or trade certificate.

Risks to the community and to program participants will be mitigated by the 24/7 (three shifts) presence of three experienced supervisory staff.


How will the board school operate?

The boarding school will provide a culturally and demographically-specific educational curriculum for African American youth, ages 15-18, who are current residents of New Hanover County. Plans for the school are conceptual at this point. Work that LINC has done in the past, along with collaborations with organizations also working in youth education and empowerment, and crime reduction, have informed the planning.

Cohorts of twelve students will participate in academic and trade instruction for a 14-month period. The end goal for all students in each cohort will be earning GEDs and trade certification.

Instruction will be provided through a partnership between LINC, Inc. and Cape Fear Community College. Classes and training will take place at the boarding school. In addition, field trips, community service, hands-on skills development, and other enrichment will be provided.

School applicants will be required to have attained an 8th grade reading proficiency prior to admittance. All students in a cohort will concurrently follow the same academic and skills curriculum, with special interests or needs assessed on a student-by-student basis and be dependent upon the capability of the teaching staff and the constraints of a 14-month program period. Upon graduation of a cohort, a new cohort of 12 students will begin the program. The school will run throughout the year, with 14 consecutive months, rather than on a traditional school year calendar.

The size of the cohorts is dictated by the capacity of the facility.


Space Needs Assessment, Princess Place Fire Station Adaptive Reuse, prepared by Sawyer Sherwood & Associate Architecture, March 25, 2022, pdf here

Neighborhood Meeting Invitation, September 30, 2022

City of Wilmington, Case Summary • General Rezoning, Planning Commission Legislative Hearing, March 5, 2024, pdf here

City of Wilmington Planning Commission Meeting, March 6, 2024, 6pm, Agenda Item 4, streamed video start at 1:49:25, unofficial record

City of Wilmington Planning Commission Meeting, March 6, 2024, Agenda Item 4, supporting documents

City of Wilmington, City Council Meeting, April 16, 2024, 6:30pm, PH3 and PH4, streamed video start at 3:12:29, unofficial record

City of Wilmington, City Council Meeting, April 16, 2024, 6:30pm, PH3 supporting documents, and PH4, supporting documents

Downloadable Images:

3D Elevations

Floor Plan