COLUMBIA — Outside Grace Bible Church at 1322 Paris Road sit two red and white signs, each reading “Property Available.”
Soon, the church’s 400-plus member congregation will move to a new location at 601 Blue Ridge Road.
“I am going to miss the neighborhood,” Pastor Michael Burt said. “Its been a wonderful place to host a church.”
Grace Bible has been in the Benton-Stephens neighborhood for the past 55 years. However, with the steady growth of people in the congregation, the church has been forced to find new ways to accommodate the increase.
“Once we were about 80 percent full. It was fun for a while, but people get the sense ‘Oh, they don’t need me here,’ and they stop coming,” Burt said.
Changes were first made to the old building. The staff relocated offices from the building to a space off Rangeline Road, moved the library several times within the church and added two additional service times. Ultimately, though, the church leaders determined that the church had grown too large to remain on the 2.64 acres of land and decided to raise money to buy a new building. A capital campaign started in 2006 and construction began July 2007.
Heritage Academy, a K-12 independent Christian school, holds classes at Grace Bible and will begin classes in the new building in August.
Isaac Keene, chief administrative officer for Heritage Academy, said the school is excited that it will be located on one main level of the new building (as opposed to three levels in the current building), have administrative offices in a central location and have an auditorium big enough to hold all of its students.
“Since we currently share the whole building with Grace Bible, we overlap,” Keene said. “But in the new building, there is one wing designed for Heritage Academy to use during the week and a separate wing for Grace Bible to using during the week so we can operate and minimize overlapping.”
Although work on the new building began in 2007, the church has only advertised the old building for sale in the past month via flyers on the Paris Road property. Originally, it was thought that a funeral home would be moving into the building, but the deal fell through.
“We thought we had it sold, but because of economic reversals, the building is now on the market,” Burt said. “It pushed us behind because we could have been marketing it.”
The asking price for the three-story, 12,000 square-foot building is $795,000.
The church decided not to list the property with only one real estate agent, but if one is able to sell the building, the agent would be paid a commission.
“There’s no advantage to limiting it to just one,” Assistant Pastor Clark Dempsey said. “We are trying to broaden our outreach.”
The property is zoned R-3 and if a potential buyer wanted it for commercial purposes, they would have to seek rezoning through the city. Church staff suggested that other churches, funeral homes and small private schools might be interested in the property.
The church wants to have its first services in the new building on Mother’s Day, though this depends on how quickly the parking lot can be completed. While Burt is looking forward to moving into the building, which has room for expansion in the upcoming years, he will miss the building on Paris Road , where he’s been a pastor for 22 years.
“I did a wedding the last day of March and I realized that it would probably be my last wedding in the building,” Burt said. “It’s kind of wistful. I’ve seen so many changes in the building.”