A state Baptist convention’s planned sale of its multi-million-dollar office building has hit a snag with county zoning officials.
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board needs to sell its 40-acre property located in Gwinnett County, Ga., and it has a buyer who wants to build a mixed-use development with 600 apartments and five office buildings.
But members of the Gwinnett County Commission denied the request, saying they prefer a more intensely commercial project at the site, not housing. The developer, multi-family residential developer JLB Partners, has said it will not do the project if it cannot include housing. An earlier proposal by Toll Brothers to build 113 townhouses on the site also was nixed by county officials.
The Baptist property is located adjacent to the Gas South District, which includes a hockey arena, convention center and entertainment venues.
When the Georgia Baptist Mission Board built the 175,000-square-foot building in 2006, it was designed to house about 300 staff members. Today, about 33 people work in the building most weekdays.
The Georgia convention has experienced a series of reductions in income that have led to layoffs and downsizing in programs. The state convention includes about 3,600 churches with 1.5 million members. It is one of the largest state conventions affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
David Melber, chief operating officer, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution it costs about $1.3 million a year to occupy the property, which includes a pond, a 55-foot cross, a five-story office building and a two-story parking garage.
In 2006, Georgia Baptists spent $42.3 million to acquire the property and develop it. In 2015, the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation stepped in and paid off the remaining $25 million debt, leaving the state convention free of debt on the property.
Before COVID, the property was estimated to be worth nearly $65 million. Currently, the county has appraised the building at $30.5 million and the land at $7.1 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia Baptist officials have not disclosed the agreed-upon sales price of the property — an unusual move for a denominational entity managed by a board of trustees with high demands for financial transparency. The state convention cannot use any of the proceeds to shore up its budgetary shortfall from declining giving from churches because Georgia Baptists previously earmarked all proceeds from sale of the property for field ministry needs.
If JLB Partners gets approval for its new development, the company plans to raze the multi-million-dollar building erected just 16 years ago.
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