As part of a long-term plan to expand parking and construct an addition at the site, the Forest Park Baptist Church is set to demolish a church-owned building along Harlem Avenue. Rev. David Steinhart said earlier this month the organization is waiting on several permits, which it expects will be approved, and the work could begin before the end of the month.
Church Elder Don Allen said razing a nearby residential property purchased by the church several years ago will make way for 27 new parking spaces. Currently the Forest Park Baptist Church has 22 privately owned spaces.
The church is located at 139 Harlem Ave. on the corner of Dixon Street.
In addition to the church facility itself, several neighboring properties purchased within the last 20 years are also owned by the Baptist organization. It is one of these residential units that will be razed to make way for more parking.
In 1988 a two-flat next to the church’s property became available, and the congregation bought it for $81,000. Then in 1994 the next house in line went on the market and was purchased for $55,000. The result was a contiguous “campus” that includes the church building, a small parking lot, a former custodian’s house, and two more properties.
In 2004, all of the church’s mortgages were paid. With a consultant from the Southern Baptist Convention, the congregation devised a three-part plan that was first implemented in November of 2005 with a fundraising effort. Stage one of the plan is the creation of more parking. Stage two will see the construction of a handicap accessible entryway to the church, and stage three will bring the addition of a family ministry addition facility, which will require razing some of the standing properties.
According to Allen, the church has already acquired some of the necessary funding to begin creating a new entryway to the building, but additional fundraising will be needed. In addition to being handicap accessible, the entry will give parishioners access to the building directly from the parking lot. The current entry on the northeast corner of the church does not face the existing parking lot, Allen said. This phase of the project is also expected to include the installation of an elevator.