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Emmanuel Church International plans to make an offer to purchase Central Baptist Church's current buildings on Grant Street Southeast and Fourth Avenue.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
Emmanuel Church International plans to make an offer to purchase Central Baptist Church's current buildings on Grant Street Southeast and Fourth Avenue.

Mutual agreement
Central Baptist makes move official; Emmanuel planning to make offer

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com 340-2468

Central Baptist Church's official vote Sunday to buy the Mutual Savings Life Insurance Co. property means a definite move from downtown for the congregation, and a probable move to downtown for Emmanuel Church International.

Emmanuel, which now is on Eighth Street Southwest at Central Parkway, is planning to buy Central's buildings on Grant Street at Fourth Avenue Southeast, said the Rev. Karockas Watkins, pastor.

He said church elders voted to buy Central's longtime site but have not yet made a formal offer for Central to put to a vote.

The Rev. Rob Jackson, Central's pastor, said that closing on Mutual Savings' 29 acres and building on U.S. 31 South will not be until Sept. 28 to give the company time to move.

Mutual Savings did not return a call Monday about its plans.

Both pastors declined to release offer amounts.

Central move in 2008?

Jackson said that Central hopes to continue meeting in its current site until it finishes renovating Mutual Savings' first floor and converting a warehouse into a temporary sanctuary, work he hopes will be finished by summer 2008.

For plans to fall into place, Central must vote to accept Emmanuel's offer, and Emmanuel will have to sell its buildings, the pastors said. Watkins said that the church property on Eighth Street Southwest was to be listed Monday with Emmett Barran of Gateway Commercial Brokerage.

Both pastors said they hope the timing will let each congregation stay where it is until Central's future site is ready. Watkins said that if Emmanuel's property sells quickly, the congregation can perhaps lease it and stay temporarily.

"This will be a great location for us," Watkins said of Central's 40,000-square foot facility.

He said that Emmanuel needs classrooms and space for youth and other ministries. He said the location will be good for Tennessee Valley Bible College, an accredited satellite of the North Carolina College of Theology. Watkins said that he and the Rev. Sam Rice of New Genesis Community Church lead the college, which has 17 students. Watkins also dreams of a Christian school with low-cost tuition and a day care.

$1.6 million in hand

Central has raised $6 million in pledges and has $1.6 million of that in the bank, Jackson said.

"We are really excited, and God is doing some great and mighty things," he said.

Jackson said that the votes at two services Sunday were unanimous.

Central's first phase renovation will include turning the 40,000-square foot first floor into a state of the art children's facility, fellowship hall, library and classrooms, Jackson said. Renovations of second and third floors will be done by the congregation later and will include offices and adult classrooms, he said. Senior adults will be on the first floor near worship areas, according to Jackson.

A 27,000-square foot warehouse area that will serve as temporary worship space will become a youth center, the pastor said.

The 1,200-seat permanent sanctuary will be built after a second capital fund drive, Jackson said. The architect is Richard Foo of Turner Batson in Birmingham, and Johnson Kreis of Birmingham will be the contractor, said Roger Anders, Central's business and facilities manager.

Emmanuel started in the mid-1990s on West Moulton Street. The church bought and renovated former industrial property on Eighth Street Southwest two years ago. Emmanuel has branches in Madison and other communities.

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