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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 29, 202009:50 AM EST

First Baptist applies to demolish a building in the Hobson Block

The structure at 125 W. Church St. was built in 1927.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

First Baptist Church applied to the city Building Inspection Division to demolish its six-story Singles Building at 125 W. Church St. as part of the plan to consolidate its campus into one city block.

If demolished, the building would make way for the church’s new welcome center and connector building. 

City property records show the structure was built in 1927. It also is a contributing structure to the National Register Historic Places Downtown Historic District. 

Demolition will require approval from the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission. 

Williams & Rowe General Contractors is the contractor listed for the $525,000 project to demolish the six-story, 22,248-square-foot building.

City Assistant Director of Public Affairs James Croft said the city’s Historic Preservation staff met Jan. 9 with church representatives to discuss the demolition. 

First Baptist Church wants to demolish the Singles Building as part of plans to consolidate its campus into “The Hobson Block.”

It’s possible the Historic Preservation Commission could deny the application and move to designate the structure as a local landmark, according to an email Dec. 19 from Historic Preservation City Planner Supervisor Christian Popoli to Jerry Trainor, principal at Charleston-based Novus Architects and First Baptist’s architect on the project.

“I would not operate under the assumption it can be torn down,” Popoli wrote.

The Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled to meet Feb. 26.

The goal of the demolition is to create “a grand welcoming and event space adjacent to the Hobson sanctuary that wants to be a grand atrium kind of space,” Trainor wrote to Popoli and Historic Preservation City Planner Lisa Sheppard.

“The existing buildings that surround the Hobson will not accommodate this need.”

The church has not notified the city of plans to demolish other buildings on its campus, Croft said. 

In September, First Baptist Church announced plans to consolidate its campus into “The Hobson Block.”

The church plans to take out a $30 million loan to finance renovation of the buildings within the block bounded by Church, Hogan, Laura and Ashley streets. Church services will take place in the Hobson Auditorium.

First Baptist Pastor Heath Lambert said in September he plans to open the consolidated facility in the first half of 2021. 

The church hired the CBRE commercial real estate firm in December to market and sell 11.29 acres of its Downtown campus. The proceeds of that will help the church repay the $30 million loan to renovate the Hobson Block. 

Staff writer Mike Mendenhall contributed to this report. 

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