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Funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, (HUD) as one of thirteen model city projects under the Urban Growth and New Community Development Act, it was located on 5,000 acres in Warren County near Manson-Axtell Road and Soul City Boulevard in Norlina, North Carolina, 27563. According to McKissick, "Soul City was an idea before the civil rights movement. Soul City was intended to be a new town built from the ground up and open to all races, but placed emphasis on providing opportunities for minorities and the poor. It was also designed to as a means of reversing out-migration of minorities and the poor to urban areas; the opportunities Soul City provided, such as jobs, education, housing, training, and other social services would help lessen the migration.
The city was planned to contain three villages housing 18,000 people by 1989. Soul City was projected to have 24,000 jobs and 44,000 inhabitants by 2004. It was intended to include industry and retail development for jobs, as well as residential housing and services. The idea was for residents to work, get schooling, shop, receive health care, and worship in town. Soul City was to be the first new town to be organized by African American businesses. McKissick envisioned Soul City as a community where all races could live in harmony. In 1972, the city received a grant of $14 million from HUD based on plans of attracting industry as well as developing residential housing. By 1975, the city had few homes and only one industrial building, "Soultech 1".
The city failed to reach its initial ambitions. Lawsuits and investigations into the use of funds by the Soul City Company, the city's developers, resulted in foreclosure in 1979 despite eventually being cleared by a Government Accountability Office audit. In 1980, 35 housing units, a clinic, a tennis court, and a pool had been developed. About 150 people were employed in the city. Since that time, the city has grown somewhat, but not to the size originally planned. The former Soultech 1 building was purchased by the adjoining Warren County Correctional Institution for expansion. A number of new homes have been constructed. Former representative Eva Clayton lived in and worked for Soul City Company before being appointed to a state position in community development, and later being elected to the United States Congress.