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Capitol View church gets new lease on life

78-year-old building in middle of purchase

Last fall, the historic Capitol View Baptist Church was targeted for demolition. Now, neighbors of the 78-year-old building on Metropolitan Parkway are cautiously hopeful it will be the launch pad for community revitalization.

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The church, occupying a prominent corner at the highest point of the former Stewart Avenue, is in the midst of being purchased by a development team that says it plans to preserve the 1927 sanctuary and develop the rest of the three-acre site with a mix of townhouses, offices, restaurants and retail space.

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Joe Laster, a development partner with Linda Rothermel, says it's too early to say what kind of adaptive reuse awaits the old church, but possibilities include a performing arts center, a community meeting hall and loft space.

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"The roof has 100 leaks and the place has been looted repeatedly," says Laster, who estimates that fixing up the dilapidated sanctuary will cost more than $2 million. "We'll be lucky to break even on the renovation of the church."

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Ryan Gravel, founder of Friends of the Beltline and a resident of nearby Capitol View Manor, is excited about the preservation of a neighborhood landmark, as well as by the prospect of new retail development in an emerging area that has long been ignored by investors.

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"I don't think we could've hoped for a better developer for this project," he says.

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The church became the latest historic south side building threatened with demolition last year when its owner, the Achor Center, a social-service organization, announced that it could no longer afford upkeep and would replace the church with low-income housing.

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Although Laster and Rothermel are a few weeks from completing the purchase and still must have the property rezoned for retail use, Gravel believes the tentative plans mark the start of an overdue community upswing.

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"This street has changed a lot over the last few years," he says. "It has a good elementary school, it's right on the Beltline and it's seeing more interest from developers."




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