JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — First Baptist Church in downtown Jacksonville is consolidating its massive campus from 1.5 million square feet to 182,000 square feet.
Nine blocks of properties are now on the market and the church is hoping to sell it to one or two buyers.
Senior pastor Heath Lambert said there are several interested buyers, but would not go into detail about who is inquiring.
“The sprawling enormous complex downtown is too expensive to maintain and it's unnecessary,” Lambert said.
Lambert said the church spends about $5 million per year maintaining the property and would need to spend more than $70 million on properties over the next five years.
“Spending $71 million on buildings makes us a property management organization not a church.” Lambert said.
Not only do many of the buildings need repairs, but there has been a steady decline of church attendance in the last 20 years.
The portion of property that will be saved and renovated includes the historic church building on Ashley Street. The renovations will cost about $30 million.
The other nine blocks will now become part of downtown’s revitalization.
First Baptist plans to add churches in other areas of Jacksonville in hopes of increasing attendance.
The renovation of the historic church building is expected to take more than 18 months to complete once it begins. A start date has not yet been announced, and a decision on sale has not been made.
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