St. Paul's Episcopal Church is losing its neighbors at the St. Barnabas Apartments it helped found nearly 50 years ago, but it is in the process of purchasing a parking lot from the senior living organization.
The lot, south of the downtown congregation on Pine Street at Seventh Street, is already being used by the church on evenings and weekends.
"We think in the future, and relatively soon, that stretch [on Pine Street] will see a lot of improvements and enhancements, and it's a good time for us to do the same," said Hugh Sharber, chancellor for St. Paul's and chairman of its endowment committee. "We hate to see a good neighbor leave, but we feel this is in the process of becoming a more vibrant corridor."
He did not disclose the price but said the church was given the first right of refusal on the lot. In order to secure it, the church had to match the offer by a local investor group headed by real estate developer John Clark, which is buying the apartments.
The Rev. Dr. Donald Allston Fishburne, rector at St. Paul's, said the church expects to invest about $4 million in "preserving, conserving and improving [its] facilities" by 2020.
"St. Paul's Church has been part of the life and leadership of downtown Chattanooga since before the Civil War," he said in an email, "and we shall be until the kingdom comes in its fullness.
"Above all, this [purchase] is about people and ministries much more than about parking or property. The purchase of the property will help our parishioners engage in expanded ministries."
Sharber said the cost of the lot would be borne by individual contributions, by gifts to an upcoming capital campaign and from "some borrowing."
Of the 65 spaces in the lot, 35 are currently leased through St. Barnabas Senior Living Services.
Once the sale closes, Sharber said the church would lease the spaces itself or perhaps sub-lease them through the owners of a downtown office building.
He said plans after the sale call for streetscaping, landscaping and improved signage of the lot.
A large portion of the proceeds of the purchase of the parking lot by the church, according to a news release, will provide funds to help relocate the estimated 100 seniors who currently live in the apartments and to strengthen the ministries of the nursing and rehabilitation facility off East Third Street.
Clark could not be reached for comment.