Monday, November 02, 2009
First Baptist Dallas details $130M building plan
First Baptist Dallas announced plans Sunday for a $130 million capital campaign that would pay for what it claims will be the largest church construction project in U.S. history. Plans call for a state-of-the-art campus in the heart of downtown.
Sketches of the planned facility were revealed to members of First Baptist Dallas for the first time during Sunday services.
Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, told church members that prior to the Sunday launch of the capital campaign the church already had secured $62 million in pledges from donors—nearly half of what is needed to complete the project.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, a member of the congregation, started Sunday services with a prayer session. During a press conference after the service, Leppert told members of the media the church is an integral part of the city’s plan to rejuvenate downtown Dallas.
“This is an important investment in downtown Dallas,” Leppert said. “It will be part of what we are trying to accomplish in creating an urban setting.”
Plans call for a new 3,000-seat worship center complete with state-of-the-art audio-visual technology, a fountain plaza with a highly visible cross at the center of a cascading fountain, a sixth-floor education building, two gymnasiums, an outdoor patio, green areas and a skywalk connecting the campus’ buildings.
Other facets of the project include a new parking garage with more than 500 additional spaces, a roof-top green area for outside concerts and events and a transparent glass-design that will illuminate the church’s various walkways and the historic First Baptist Church sanctuary. That worship area will remain standing and in full view of members walking inside the church as well as to downtown visitors who are driving past the campus.
Artist renderings and plans also indicate the original sanctuary’s steeple will be rebuilt to highlight the historical relevance of First Baptist, which was founded in 1868, to downtown Dallas.
The deacons of the church and the planning and development committee unanimously voted for the project, Jeffress said.
During Sunday’s services, Jeffress highlighted the benefits of building a significant structure in a down economy. Pricing in the current economy is attractive, he indicated, with the church estimating that for every $1 spent it will be getting $1.30 in construction value.
Jeffress said church leadership will present the final project to the congregation only if it meets capital goals by spring 2010. Anything short could result in some type of phasing in the project, Jeffress said. But with half the money already secured, Leppert and fellow First Baptist member Dr. Ron Anderson, who is CEO of Parkland Health & Hospital System, told the Dallas Business Journal in an interview they’re confident the church will be able to complete the project in one phase.
Anderson described the current down economy and the lower construction costs associated with it as a “window of opportunity” for the church, just as it is for Parkland Hospital, which is in the midst of rebuilding its campus in an effort scheduled to total more than a billion dollars.
“Phasing may end up costing more” for the First Baptist project, Anderson said. With this in mind, Anderson said the church thought carefully and decided it would be best to complete everything in one phase.
Citing research from an independent consultant, Jeffress said the largest church capital campaign in U.S. history had been valued at $80 million, making First Baptist's effort the largest.
The plan is coming at a time when downtown Dallas is rebuilding itself, with a new performing arts center now open for residents and visitors and plans in the works for the redevelopment of the Trinity River corridor.
But size and scope aren't First Baptist's only objectives.
“First Baptist’s building program is not an end in itself,” said Jeffress. “It is a means to an end — to better minister to and meet the needs of the community. First Baptist is firmly committed to spreading the message of God’s transforming love downtown.”
The Dallas-based architectural firm The Beck Group is designing the project and expects that, when completed, the First Baptist project will be certified to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's silver standard.