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Church lost in Ivan building hurricane-ready facilitycomment (0)

August 30, 2007

By Grace Thornton

Don Taylor smiles when he thinks of the five-story building being constructed on Perdido Beach Boulevard in Orange Beach.

“There are about 50 of us in the church, and we’re building a $5 million building. Now you do the math on that,” Taylor said with a laugh. “It had to be a faith thing.”

Romar Beach Baptist Church, for years housing a strong ministry to locals and vacationers alike, was obliterated when Hurricane Ivan made landfall on its beach in September 2004.

Their beachfront building gone, members of the Baldwin Baptist Association church began to dream about the options for a new facility.

But a $5 million building financed out-of-pocket was never part of the plan. The congregation tossed around ideas more comparable in size and cost to the 200-seat facility — a beach house converted to a church — that it had before the storm.

But when a developer approached church members in 2005 with an astronomical offer for their land — $14 million — they eventually decided to relocate to a site 900 feet away and use the money from the land sale to build a more expensive building.

The architect’s drawings blew their minds, according to Pastor Paul Smith. The five-story building would seat 351 plus a choir, sleep 88 in dormitory-style housing and have a “huge” fellowship hall, he said.
The building would stand on pilings driven 78 feet into the ground — built to withstand a hurricane. Plus the full first floor would be used for parking space rather than rooms in case of another storm surge.

And best of all, Smith said it would have a huge lighthouse on the front, reflecting the church’s motto — “God’s lighthouse on the beach” — and attracting passers-by. “We designed a building that we didn’t think we were going to have to pay for,” he said.

Then the land deal fell through.

After much head scratching and decision-making, the church voted to continue on with the proposed building at its current location.

“We had $1 million from insurance and contributions and took out a $3 million loan,” Smith said. “Now we’re just trying to get up that last million.”

The outside of the building is framed up, but the church needs volunteer help finishing the interior, he said. A team from Georgia kicked off the interior work in mid-August, and help is needed in order for the church to meet its projected completion date of late January. The church currently meets in the Bear Pointe Civic Association clubhouse.

For more information about volunteering, call church member John Barrett at 251-747-0068.

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