Rezoning issues slowing sale of Georgia Baptist building  


DULUTH, Ga. – The complexity of the sale of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s office building is delaying closing on a deal that would provide millions of dollars for a new endowment fund to strengthen ministry in the state.

“Due diligence on a complex commercial property takes a lot longer than a typical home sale,” said David Melber, chief operating officer for the state Mission Board. “This is a much more complex rezoning issue, and that speaks to the difficulty of getting it done.”

A potential buyer is looking to create a residential and retail development on the 40-acre property.

“We’re doing our best to complete the sale,” said W. Thomas Hammond Jr., executive director of the state Mission Board. “This is crucial because we’re spending money on operation of a building when proceeds from its sale would be so beneficial to reach Georgia with the gospel.”

The Mission Board’s Executive Committee hired one of the nation’s largest real estate brokers, JLL, to market the property in late 2020. The firm had found a potential buyer within a matter of weeks.

The proposed closing date on the property sale was initially slated for April 14, but the rezoning process has been more complicated than anticipated, which has lengthened the due diligence period, Melber said.

Gwinnett County officials have set a hearing for May 24 to decide whether to approve the current proposal.

Selling the building has been touted as a means to cut waste and get more financial resources to the field through an endowment for strengthening churches, encouraging pastors and pushing back lostness in Georgia and around the world.

“It is projected that we would save greater than $1 million per year being in an appropriately sized building vs. the current one,” Melber said.

The proposal calls for creation of a “Ministry Endowment Fund” through the Georgia Baptist Foundation. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds from the sale would go into that fund. The remaining 25 percent would be used to cover the cost of relocating the state offices to a smaller, more affordable building.

“This is all about sound financial stewardship,” Hammond said. “By right-sizing our offices, we will have endowment that resources our churches and encourages our pastors as they continue their work to reach Georgia.”

Messengers to the Georgia Baptist Convention, acting on a recommendation from an ad hoc Building Proceeds Study Committee, set the process in motion at the annual meeting in 2019.

“The bottom line,” Hammond said, “is that souls will be saved as a result of the forward-thinking of previous leadership of the Georgia Baptist Convention who followed the Lord’s leading to establish a perpetual source of ministry funding.”