Originally created 07/29/06

Macedonia Baptist Church has expansion plans



Regency Mall on Gordon Highway will have new life next spring.

Macedonia Baptist Church, on Wrightsboro Road, wants to convert the former Montgomery Ward space into a 2,500- to-3,000-seat worship sanctuary, a gymnasium, classrooms, a bookstore and a coffee shop.

Macedonia Worship Center, with more than 134,000 square feet, will be a satellite campus for the 2,600-member congregation, said the Rev. Gregory Fuller, the pastor.

Dr. Fuller hopes that starting in April, the three Sunday services will be replaced by an early service on Wrightsboro Road, followed by a service at the center. The church also holds an evangelism service at 6 p.m. Saturdays.

In his view, the center will be key to restoring south Augusta and the rest of the city. When the mall was prosperous, he said, the city did well, but as it declined, the political and economic climate also slipped. The mall lost its last major tenant, Montgomery Ward, in 2001. Its remaining smaller tenants soon followed.

"My belief is that the ground is anointed," he said.

The church holds a lease-purchase agreement with Charleston, S.C.-based Commercial Property Holding LLC. At the end of a six-month lease, Macedonia will purchase the building and 15 acres of parking for $2.3 million.

"Our hope and aim is to possess the entire mall. We are in negotiation with them (the other owners) about the rest of it as well," Dr. Fuller said.

Macedonia has been talking about its next step for two years. The pastor and congregation agree that this is the time and place, he said.

"We are supposed to build in a place where he (God) chooses. He has already chosen that land to be his worship center, a place of Christian education, a place where the city can come and experience the presence and power of God," Dr. Fuller said.

The church will concentrate first on the inside, then the outside. Renovations should begin around Thanksgiving. No contractor has been hired yet, said Johnnie Settles, an administrator.

For information, visit the church's Web site, takingthecity.org.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.