2014 News


Tulsa church renovating downtown building...

By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer

Church endowment funds typically put their money in stocks, bonds and other traditional investments.
First Presbyterian Church downtown is breaking that mold by investing in an old building it hopes eventually will produce up to $1 million a year for Tulsa missions.
Last year the church bought the Avanti Building at 810 S. Cincinnati Ave., a former Packard car dealership, for $2.1 million. When renovations are completed next February, it expects to begin generating income by leasing commercial space in the building.
"Every dollar from the project will go to missions within the city of Tulsa," said the Rev. Ryan Moore, co-pastor of First Presbyterian.
"This is really a new model for churches and ministry," he said.
"It's called social entrepreneurism, and it's happening all over the country and all over the world.
"It's taking the various competencies in the church community and saying, 'How can we use those for the greater glory of God?' "
Moore said this project takes the business skills of church members and an unused resource — the Avanti Building — and "puts them into service to Christ and his kingdom."
Bob Pielsticker, a church elder who is heading the project, said the church will invest some $10 million in the Avanti building, including its purchase price, without borrowing money.
He said about a third of the 84,000 square feet of commercial space in the building will be leased to Cyntergy AEC, an architecture and engineering firm that is designing the renovation, which will more than cover the building's operating expenses.
Only 16 percent of the building would need to be leased to pay its expenses, he said.
When fully leased, Pielsticker said, the building will generate about $800,000 to $850,000 in annual rental income, and parking rental will push the income to $900,000 to $1 million.
"It will have a cool, industrial warehouse-space look and an open plan," he said.
Flintco is doing construction on the renovation.
The building will be its own legal entity separate from the church, and will pay taxes, Pielsticker said.
David Clutter, a project manager at Cyntergy AEC, said: "It's going to be a nice project. We're going to take a building that's essentially been abandoned and bring it up to something that's usable."
Moore said a church task force is at work now looking at Tulsa's needs and considering ideas and options for using the revenue stream from Avanti to meet those needs.
"I hope by the end of the summer we will have a phased program of mission endeavors and partnerships that we can take to the congregation," he said.
"It could range from after-school programs for TPS (Tulsa Public Schools) students, to helping with transitional living arrangements, to encouraging business development to create jobs ... to micro-loans ... a whole range of really cool ideas.
"This is an incredibly innovative project that we see in other parts of the country, but I don't know of any in Tulsa, where a church is saying, 'How can we invest in other ways that may create streams of revenue for missions?' "
The Avanti Building was built in the 1920s as a four-story building. Two more stories were added in 1983.
It is the second former auto dealership purchased by the church, which also purchased a former dealership to the east and renovated it into a youth and young adult ministry facility.
The church also owns a full city block to its west, the Bernsen Community Life Center building and a half a city block of parking to its southwest.
The church completed a $40 million renovation and expansion last year.
Moore said the Avanti project is another sign of the church's commitment to the downtown area.
"In other cities I've lived in, the churches left when the downtown declined," he said.
"For whatever reason, Tulsa downtown churches had a sense that the Lord was calling them to remain, and where better to be than in the heart of the city?
"I'm proud to be part of a church, and a church community, that has remained committed to the downtown and is doing projects like this," Moore said.

Bill Sherman 918-581-8398