When First Baptist Church decided to relocate to a site on Bluecutt Road more than 15 years ago, we wondered what would become of the downtown property it vacated.
Although it was a stately building with links to the city’s history spanning almost two centuries, finding a buyer seemed a difficult talk, especially with its initial price tag of $4.9 million.
That’s why we welcomed the news that the church has found a purchaser. On Monday, an undisclosed purchaser signed a contract to buy the property at an undisclosed price (the latest list price was $450,000). According to the real estate agent who negotiated the purchase on behalf of the buyer, plans call for a mixed-use project, one that includes commercial/office space and upscale apartments.
Although First Baptist has continued to operate in a limited capacity at the location on Seventh Street North, a cloud of uncertainty has enveloped the property.
At 81,000 square feet, covering two-thirds of a city block, the church occupies a large and important downtown footprint. Fears that the church would abandon the property when its Bluecutt Road project was completed left us with an uneasy feeling about the future of this important parcel and the message it might send about the health and vitality of the city.
At this juncture, we know very little about the new owner’s plans, but we are encouraged to note that the owner will consult with local contractors about how this property can be used most effectively.
We would expect one those consulted would be Chris Chain, who has been a leader in redeveloping many of our downtown properties, including his current project at the old Stone Hotel on Fifth Street.
This will be the largest downtown project in recent memory and the implications are large, too.
Even at this early stage, it should be viewed as a very positive moment in our city, a reminder that there are those who believe Columbus — particularly downtown Columbus — has a lot to offer.
We are eager to learn more about this project, including the identity of the new owner, in early January when the parties close the sale.
Because the property will transition from nonprofit to private ownership, the city will be able to collect property tax, along with other taxes that will undoubtedly be generated once the plans are finalized.
It’s good news, no matter how you look at it.
The long wait is over.
We now look forward to a new chapter for an old city landmark.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.