The pending sale comes 20 years after the church began planning for its new home off Quinn Road and Hwy. 249, a 32-acre site the First Baptist Church Tomball purchased in 2003, according to church information.
The existing church campus, located at Houston and Oxford streets in Old Town Tomball, has been on the market on and off over the last two decades as the church grappled with the right timing and buyer, Lead Pastor James Clark said in a Feb. 24 phone interview.
“It’s been a 20-year project for the church with the intent to relocate,” Clark said. “Probably about five years ago ... we got a lot more intentional about having it on the market.”
Clark said First Baptist Church Tomball was organized in 1909, two years after the city of Tomball was established. Its campus has grown over the last century-plus along with the city, he said.
“It’s like a dream come true. ... We have a deep love for Tomball,” he said. “The great thing about the EDC is it feels, honestly, more like a partnership than a sale. ... The main worship center, they’re wanting to keep that facade as we understand it. ... The fact that a lot of that historic spiritual activity will still be represented, not as a church but just as the facade, the building itself.”
While the sale is expected to close in late March or April, TEDC Executive Director Kelly Violette said the TEDC has no immediate plans for the church campus.
“Part of our strategic plan goal is the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown and to try to facilitate catalytic projects that are going to be able to really kick off some meaningful redevelopment, and so that site really just started coming to mind and it became clearer and clearer that that really is our next opportunity site,” Violette said.
During a Feb. 20 City Council meeting, council members approved on first reading a $4.5 million amendment to the TEDC’s budget to acquire the property. Council also approved the site as a project for the TEDC. Violette said the $4.5 million was moved from the TEDC’s budget reserves to pay for the pending sale.
Clark and Violette said the TEDC is planning to lease the church back to the congregation. Following the close of the sale, the TEDC will explore the best uses for the campus, and the new church campus will be built.
Violette said the TEDC is evaluating the potential uses of the 4.63-acre site in Old Town, which could include a municipal use or be privately redeveloped. The TEDC is in the early stages of evaluating the condition of all the facilities on the campus and availability of parking, she said.
“People are attached to it, so I think for us we have this unique ability to redevelop it and still keep what is kind of meaningful but also do that in a way that meets the needs of downtown,” Violette said.
She said the community will also have the opportunity to weigh in on the best use for the campus through an upcoming update to the city’s comprehensive plan—a long-term visionary plan.
At the new Tomball Parkway Campus, Clark said Phase 1 is anticipated to take three years to build, opening in summer 2025. The first phase of the 32-acre property will include a 600-seat auditorium with a two-story classroom wing for children, youth and adults. The masterplan for the property also includes an outdoor venue, ponds and recreational space, including the existing outdoor pavilion on the property, Clark said.
“There’s a lot of history, and we recognize that, but at the same time, the church is very strategic about what we can do to benefit the community now and in the future, and the new property allows us to do that,” Clark said. “Everything just fell in place for both organizations.”