News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 2006


Central Baptist move story with happy ending

Central Baptist Church's decision to leave downtown Decatur wasn't welcomed news to people wrestling with revitalizing the area.

Neither was Central's decision to take an option on land at Alabama 67 and U.S. 31 good news for developers who wanted to put a major shopping center there.

But things work out. Ask the Rev. Rob Jackson, pastor at Central, and he might say it's all God's will.

In any event, Central appears to be overcoming major obstacles in its determination to move to a more desirable location where it can serve more people.

The church raised an astonishing $6 million in pledges and has an option on the Mutual Savings Life Insurance building and 29 acres farther south on U.S. 31.

Also, it's systematically selling off its property around its Grant Street sanctuary, which will result in greater traffic downtown every day rather than only on Wednesday nights and Sundays.

That will actually help downtown.

City officials all but announced this week that Target and many other retail outlets will indeed be coming to the 29-acre site that fronts Alabama 67 and U.S. 31 now that Central dropped its option. Central only took an option on the property after earlier plans for the shopping center collapsed.

Some church members staged a bitter fight to stay downtown but those in favor of moving quickly passed their "victory goal" of $4 million in pledges, are $1 million short of the $7 million "challenge goal" and see the "hallelujah goal" of $14 million now a possibility.

By reaching the $14 million mark and selling all of its holdings downtown, Central officials say members can move to the new site with no long-term debt.

The new sanctuary will seat 1,200 and could expand to 1,800 seats. In addition to serving the spiritual needs of Decatur, Central is demonstrating great faith in the city, considering its present sanctuary seats 550.

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