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Deal to buy historic church falls through

 The Journal Record | August 8, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY – The future of a historic church building in north-central Oklahoma City is in doubt again after a potential buyer has backed out, church leaders announced Thursday.

“It is with great disappointment that I inform you that Crossings Community Church has determined that they will be unable to purchase our property here at 36th and Walker,” said the Rev. John Malget in a social media post to his congregation at First Christian Church.

“First Christian Church of Oklahoma City is alive and well, and we will move forward from here. Please keep our leadership in your prayers in the weeks and months ahead as we continue with the mission of our church,” he said.

The property has been up for sale for about four years with the latest published asking price set at $5.65 million. Well-meaning activists told city officials they’re concerned that a buyer would raze the site and build something else, so they pushed for protection earlier this year by declaring the building and its surrounding 30 acres a historic district.

They did so without checking with the church first. Malget said at the time that although First Christian’s congregation appreciates the community support, such a designation could scare off potential buyers who don’t want to be encumbered by additional bureaucracy.

The Historic Preservation Commission voted to initiate the historic designation process, but council members struck the resolution after Crossings church leaders opened negotiations. Crossings was interested in using the building as a satellite similar to its operations across Oklahoma City, in Edmond and Lexington and had promised to leave its historic attributes intact.

That changed this week with an online note by Crossings Pastor Marty Grubbs to his congregation following due diligence.

“Unfortunately, the overall cost was much higher than we anticipated,” Grubbs said. “The total cost of this endeavor would exceed $20 million. It became far more than what our leadership and elders were willing to invest; particularly in light of our 60-year commitment not to incur any long-term debt.”

Church leaders at both churches declined additional comment. The residents group that originally launched the historic preservation process could not be reached Thursday.

The eye-catching church with its egg-like dome also has served as the base of operations for Jewel Box Theatre for years. The building is important to the community because of its cultural value, political heritage and architectural significance, City Council members have often said.

“We are especially thankful for the great friendship we have developed with First Christian Church during this process, and pray for them as they move forward,” Grubbs said.

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