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Local churches plan new construction, expansion

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by Paul Flemming

SBJ Staff

Praise the Lord and pass the nail gun.

Churches in Springfield contribute to more than the spiritual life of the community, they are also an important component of the construction industry. Two large church building projects getting started in the Springfield area reveal the scope of holy economic impact.

James River Assembly church held a ceremonial ground breaking on a new 175,000-square-foot, $11.8 million church June 28. Initial work began July 6.

And Ridgecrest Baptist Church is starting work on a $7 million, 86,000-square-foot addition to its building.

"Weather permitting, and the Lord willing, we'll move in in January of 2000," said John Lindell, pastor of the 7-year-old James River Assembly.

James River is now in a 62,000-square-foot church at 5500 S. Southwood in south Springfield. The new church will be on Highway 65, about a half mile north of Highway CC in Christian County.

Nabholz Construction Corp. is the general contractor on the project. The firm of Pellham-Phillips-Hagerman Architects-Engineers performed the architectural work on the project.

"We're not trying to build anything ostentatious," Lindell said. He said the building is projected to cost between $60 and $80 per square foot.

Lowell Thomas, president of Nabholz' Springfield operation, said by comparison, Branson theaters built during the boom there in the early '90s cost between $80 and $100 per square foot.

"They're not trying to build a Taj Mahal," Thomas said of the James River project. "They want usable, comfortable space for them to grow into."

Thomas said Nabholz is also working on an addition at Schweitzer United Methodist.

Projects with these churches, Thomas said, have proved noteworthy. "Seldom do you get an owner who is as decisive and organized," he said of James River's leadership.

The church is undertaking the project to accommodate its growth. Lindell said Sunday morning attendance averages 3,000 people.

He said the church has been shuttling about 500 people each Sunday from off-site parking.

The new church, Lindell said, will accommodate the ministry that has outgrown its current building and allow for expansion.

James River has listed its current church building with R.B. Murray Company for $2.5 million.

Rob Murray, vice president of R.B. Murray, said interest in the church has been keen. "We don't have a contract or a bid, but the interest level has been very high," Murray said.

"It's such a specific use. It's been used as a church and will probably be used as a church. The prospects, nine out of 10 of them, have been other churches in the area," Murray said.

He said the price is well below the replacement cost, and the many features of the church are attractive to other big churches.

The shortest walk-through has been an hour and

a half, and the

standard perusal takes more than three hours.

The Wirt Development Corporation is the contractor on the Ridgecrest Baptist Church project that will more than triple its building's size.

The addition of 86,000 square feet to the 44,000-square-foot church will include a new 1,800-seat auditorium along with new office, child-care and choir-practice space said Ralph Walling, building service supervisor.

Walling said Ridgecrest has three Sunday morning services and a Saturday evening service now in its sanctuary that holds up to 740 people.

The addition will be on the church's 9.6-acre site at 2210 W. Republic Road. "This will be the last building done on this land," Walling said. "All of it will be right out in front" with green space left, as well.

Walling said Ridgecrest began in 1984 with 37 members as a mission of First Baptist Church. The congregation now numbers 2,000.

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