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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jul. 3, 201905:20 AM EST

San Marco church seeking new uses for its property

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As its membership shrinks, South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church wants to retain its sanctuary while offering the rest of its campus for development.

Leaders of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church are evaluating the highest and best use of the almost full block it owns in the historic San Marco area.

“We are taking inquiries about repurposing our facility,” said Jeff King, chair of the trustees of the 106-year-old church.

The church campus sits on about 2.4 acres at 2137 Hendricks Ave. The building housing Matthew’s restaurant is separately owned and not involved.

King said the campus was built for a membership of 1,500 to 2,000 and the congregation now is less than 250, reflecting a decline in church congregations nationwide. That puts a strain on the revenue stream to continue the upkeep. King said there is no debt on the property.

“If you look at churches as a whole, they are closing or repurposing,” he said. “We are not unique.”

South Jacksonville Presbyterian would like to retain the sanctuary and continue to worship there, King said.

The front of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church is along Hendricks Avenue across from the entrance to San Marco Square.

“We started taking a hard look at what we need. The consensus was we would like to have a presence in San Marco. We would like to have a church there. We are looking at how we can figure that out,” King said.

The remainder of the property is available for redevelopment.

King said there has been interest from private schools, other churches and developers who envision commercial, apartment, condo and townhouse development.

“You name it,” King said.

King said there is no formal request for proposals, just word-of-mouth. He said church leaders have been considering another use for the site for about two years as they fielded inquiries about its availability.

There is no time frame for a decision. It will depend on what plans come through, King said.

“What we did is started putting some feelers out. We had some people come to us,” he said.

Leaders have considered renting space or selling property. King said there are buildings that could come down or be re-used.

He said the buildings comprise the sanctuary, education building, administration building, family life center, music building and two apartment buildings, with one used as a pastoral counseling center and another that has been used for other church purposes.

Any development would need to be approved by the city for proper zoning.

“Any developer that is looking at doing something, that is on their dime and their nickel,” King said.

“Hopefully it’s moving into the 21st century and making us a surviving and thriving congregation in the community,” he said.

The congregation was established in 1913.

King said the church was built in 1930s and before that, congregants worshiped “in a little wooden church on the back side of the property.”

Buildings were added into the 1980s.

The rear of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church looking down Thacker Avenue.

A reuse of the property also could create taxable value. Churches are exempt from property taxes. Duval County property records show the site would be assessed at $3.3 million.

King is a certified public accountant with UF Health.

The location is near the proposed East San Marco shopping center and almost 2,000 apartments developed or proposed along the Southbank of the St. Johns River and along Philips Highway and Kings Avenue near the historic district.

“We would like to take advantage of all the people coming into these apartments,” King said.

The site also is across Hendricks Avenue from the San Marco Square retail and entertainment area.

Developer Michael Balanky, who owns and develops property on the Southbank, said the church site is a special location.

“I think that there could be some really interesting things happen there,” he said. “I love the location. It would  be very walkable with San Marco Square right there.”

An apartment and the music buildings at the rear of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church.

 

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