Lee University has announced the acquisition of the adjacent First Baptist Church of Cleveland, TN property.
First Baptist, one of the largest and most historic congregations in Cleveland, Tennessee, is in the latter stages of Phase One of a multi-million dollar property relocation approximately five miles to the north on Stuart Road in Cleveland.
In an e-mail to the faculty and staff on Sunday, Lee president Dr. Paul Conn said the university has, “purchased all the downtown Cleveland property of First Baptist Church. The purchase was approved by our Board of Directors in a unanimous vote on Friday (June 11), and announced to the First Baptist congregation by Pastor Allan Lockerman in this morning’s worship services.”
Conn went on to say that two years ago, First Baptist began construction of a new facility and during that process the two parties have engaged in conversations which culminated in this weekend’s final outcome. The church is scheduled to move from its downtown location to its new building in September.
The property purchased includes the main sanctuary, which seats approximately 1,000, and a large education building which together total more than 95,000 square feet. The purchase also includes parking lots, a one story 35,000 square foot block of former commercial property on Ocoee Street which years ago housed a JC Penney store, and 13 parcels in the neighborhood between the church and the Lee campus. As part of the agreement, First Baptist will maintain its offices in the commercial building during the next two years while the Stuart Road facilities are expanded.
“Our decision to buy the First Baptist property is an expression of our confidence in the Lord’s plans for our future,” Conn said. “The opportunities which it will create are exciting to consider.”
The relationship between Lee University and First Baptist was characterized by Conn as one of “wonderful neighbors for many years ... we will miss their presence on our southern border, as they move from the downtown community. We have enjoyed sharing the neighborhood with them. But as the Lord leads them to their new home, we believe it is natural and fitting that we should utilize this key piece of property in ways that continue to serve the Kingdom of God.”
[Faith News Network]