Company says 'more planning’ needed at iconic site
Nearly a year and a half after the iconic Nags Head building known as His Dream Center was bought by SAGA Construction and Development, it remains empty and unused. And plans to remodel and repurpose the building as an arts-and-performance center and open it this summer are now on hold, according to SAGA CEO Sumit Gupta.
Asked about progress on the project — and the previous timeline of an opening this summer — Gupta told the Sentinel, “That’s not going to happen.” Citing an unspecified change in plans, he added that he does not have a timetable on the project's completion and the facility's reopening.
In a Sentinel interview last June, Gupta discussed his plan to create an arts and performance center that would be available for community organizations, asserting that, "This is a not a return-on-investment project. My return on investment will come from how much benefit I can bring to the community — really continuing to have this be a community hub."
Asked about his plans for the building now, he said, “We’re working on it and it has kind of evolved. We’ve been designing and planning and did some demolition. And the dream has kind of grown. We’re working with some new partners and decided we wanted to do some more planning.”
For his part, Deputy Nags Head Town Manager Andy Garman confirmed to the Sentinel that the town has not seen significant signs of work at the site.
“We’re not aware of any inspections they’ve requested, so at this point we haven’t seen much movement to do some of the remodeling they had talked about doing,” Garman said. He added that since the initial remodeling permit was granted in 2018, SAGA hasn’t asked for any inspections. These often include, Garman explained, inspections on such things as plumbing, electrical and framing work.
“Usually we would be called fairly soon once work starts progressing,” he added. “And we haven’t had any calls.”
The Nags Head architectural firm of Cahoon and Kasten, retained by SAGA to design the new facility, submitted an application for a remodeling permit to Nags Head in July of 2018 and received the permit the next month. The project had an estimated cost of $145,249, with the remodeling work limited to the interior of the building to make it work as a performing arts center.
Cahoon and Kasten have not been involved in the project since submitting that initial application and did not expect the facility to be ready to open this summer, Ben Cahoon told the Sentinel.
Constructed in 1986 by Outer Banks Community Foundation co-founder George Crocker next to his splashy Galleon Esplanade shopping plaza, "The Rear View Mirror" building was originally used as a museum to house Crocker's classic car collection. Acquired 10 years later by the North Carolina Assemblies of God, the building was re-dubbed His Dream Center and became the home of First Flight Church.
The sprawling Nags Head landmark had served Dare County for more than a decade as a vital center of local service, hosting multiple community ministries, international students and even up-and-coming actors. The building played host to such community-oriented organizations as Ruthie’s Kitchen and the Outer Banks Room in the Inn homeless shelter program.
Along with hosting annual Chi Alpha Campus Ministry SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) conferences for student leaders from college campuses all along the East Coast, the center also functioned as a “home away from home” for the international student workers who came to the Outer Banks each summer as part of the J-1 Visa Summer Work Travel Program.
Equipped with its own theater, His Dream Center also hosted the Dockside Theatre Company, which had met there since 2005. Gupta had said he hoped to have Dockside resume performances in the building when it re-opened — and Dockside Director Connie Rose previously told the Sentinel she was encouraged by discussions she'd had with SAGA on that subject.
But, contacted last week, Rose said she has not heard any more on the subject from SAGA. And she noted that the company will now perform its shows at Manteo High School.