By Chris Turner and Lonnie Wilkey
BRENTWOOD — The Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention unanimously approved a recommendation March 25 to purchase property in Williamson County, effectively taking a historic step forward in establishing a permanent address for the 140-year-old convention.
The action clears the way for the Executive Board to move forward in finalizing a 2.3 acre land purchase in the Berry Farms mixed use development located south of Franklin adjacent to I-65 and near the Goose Creek Bypass (State Route 248), just north of State Route 840.
Once the transaction is finalized, plans will begin to move forward on the construction of an approximately 34,000 square-foot office space that will host the offices of the Executive Board, Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes, and the Tennessee Baptist Foundation.
“There has been a lot of prayer and hard work that has gone ahead of this moment,” said Randy C. Davis, executive director and treasurer of the Executive Board. “This culminates a long search process that looked at location possibilities in all areas in Middle Tennessee.”
He told the Board that more than 100 properties were looked at over the past several years. “We feel this site is strategically located both for Tennessee Baptists and for the majority of the commuting patterns of our existing staff, and we feel it offers the best long-term return on the investment of our resources.”
Davis also shared that the Property Transition Task Force explored all options, including purchasing an existing building and continuing to lease space.
The lease option was not a good stewardship option, Davis said, noting they could not earn enough interest off the sale of the former property to lease property without adding Cooperative Program dollars.
Davis said that the best option was to purchase property in an area where the return on investment would be high in the long term.
The TBC leader noted the action taken by the Executive Board is historic. “The vote taken today is one that has not been taken in nearly half a century,” he observed.
The search for a new location was made necessary by the 2013 sale of the Executive Board’s Baptist Center at 5001 Maryland Way where the offices had been located for 45 years. That building was 88,000 square feet.
The cost of the new facility will be covered by the income from the sale of the property ($8.75 million) plus interest earned since the sale. The Executive Board was assisted in the sale of the previous property and the purchase of the new property by Southeast Venture, LLC.
“I am extremely thankful for God’s provision in the sale of our previous property,” Davis said. “As it stands now, we should be able to cover all the purchase and construction costs of this monumental move from the funds provided through that sale and the accruing interest without using any Cooperative Program money.
That has been an overriding objective throughout this entire process.”
The working title of the new facility will be the Church Support Center, Davis shared with Board members. “This will be an opportunity to communicate that the denomination serves the churches. Churches do not serve the denomination,” he said.
Board members posed several questions to Davis and the task force ranging from whether the new facility will provide for potential growth to whether the contingency fund was large enough to cover unexpected expenses. Concern also was expressed about building a facility while actively encouraging churches to increase giving through the Cooperative Program.
The Board was assured that the same concerns had been raised by the task force and they were confident that the new facility would meet the needs of staff both now and in the future and that it could be constructed with funds in hand and future interest earnings from those funds.
Davis stressed again that no Cooperative Program funds would be used and that no funds would be borrowed. “We will do everything we can to communicate that.”
The board of directors’ action initiates a time line that will begin immediately after the sale is finalized. The overarching plan is to have the design work completed by Jan. 1, 2016, with construction to begin March 1, 2016, and completed by March 1, 2017. The Executive Board Ministries would move shortly after.
Currently, the Executive Board offices are located in leased office space in Brentwood where the staff temporarily relocated last May following the sale of its property. The terms of that lease are three years, so the construction timetable dovetails nicely with the termination of that lease.
“We look back 48 years ago at those Baptists that had the God-given vision to invest in that property in the middle of a little town that became one of the best cities in America,” Davis said.
“It was their vision that has enabled us to make this move. The legacy of those leaders has never been far from our minds as we’ve made this move. We recognize we have a responsibility to continue that legacy while at the same time having a responsibility to our current and future Tennessee Baptists to be good stewards of our resources. We believe we are accomplishing all of that in this move our board of directors approved here today.”