First Baptist Church of Jacksonville received a building permit Friday for a nearly $1.8 million renovation, repair and remodeling project at its downtown campus.
The church received a city building permit to modernize the Lindsay Memorial Auditorium at 125 W. Ashley St. as the main sanctuary and worship center.
The project includes demolition of the interior back-of-house area, remodeling the sanctuary, replacing the auditorium carpet, painting the lower floor pews, putting in new restrooms, creating a new choir loft and modernizing the infrastructure, according to the building permit.
In addition, the plans call for improvements to the audio, video and live-streaming capabilities for services and programs.
The auditorium will have a capacity of 915 people, according to the building permit.
Also Friday, the city issued a separate plumbing permit to the church for remodeling work estimated at $30,000.
When the church initially applied for a building permit, the estimated cost of the auditorium project was $1 million, according to the application.
That initial application was under review for several weeks before Friday when a revised permit application with the higher projected cost of $1,782,499 was issued.
First Baptist Church officials couldn’t be reached for comment Saturday.
In a Dec, 3, 2020 public Facebook post, church leaders provided an update on the project including several photos showing the stripped-down auditorium.
“Renovations to LMA are off to a great start! This week, we removed all of the seats on the ground level, started working on the ground floor, and removed the staircases along the sides of the stage. …” the church said in the post, which provided no other details.
The 26,590 square-foot auditorium previously was renovated in April 2016 at an estimated cost of $2.8 million, according to Perry-McCall Construction, Inc., which did the work.
First Baptist had pursued an ambitious expansion policy downtown in recent years — at its downtown and Jacksonville-area satellite church campuses.
Then church membership dwindled steadily. The pandemic came next with its mandatory statewide lockdown and other precautions that hit the economy and downtown real estate market hard.
In September 2019, the church announced plans to consolidate its downtown campus from 10 blocks to one.
Consolidation was deemed necessary by church leaders to eliminate skyrocketing maintenance costs, while also rebuilding its dwindling congregation by extending its ministry to growing areas of Duval County, church leaders said at that time.
The congregation subsequently approved — overwhelmingly — a plan that called for borrowing $30 million to pay for the estimated 18- to 24-month renovation project centered on the church’s historic Hobson Auditorium, 124 W. Ashley St.
However, roughly a year later, that plan fell apart because of the pandemic and economic downturn.