ARTS/West May Be Temporary Home For Church Relocation

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It's been a decade since church services were held in the building that now houses ARTS/West in Athens, but it may soon be happening again on a temporary basis.

New Life Assembly of God, which this month sold its Athens building to developers, has been in discussions with the city about using the arts facility until a new church is built.

Pastor Philip Foster said the church expressed its interest in the ARTS/West building, and a couple meetings have taken place with the city to discuss it. The church and city have not yet signed an agreement.

"It's just a matter of the details," Foster said.

Andrew Chiki, assistant director of the city's Department of Arts, Parks and Recreation, said the city routinely rents out the ARTS/West facility to community groups, although arts-related activities get a preferential rate.

He said New Life would be charged the non-arts rate of $200 a week for using the facility once a week for its Sunday services. Chiki said use of the facility by the church would not interfere with arts activities.

"We're still working to put a contract together right now," Chiki said. "I would say there is a decent chance of that happening."

The developers who plan to build student apartments at the current New Life Assembly of God site on South Green Drive agreed, as part of the purchase deal, to allow the church to remain there through the end of the year. Foster said the church may move before winter weather hits.

"We're going to be there for awhile," Foster said.

The current building and property sold for $1.7 million, but Foster said there was a small mortgage on the property.

At this point, the location of the new church has not been determined.

"Currently, we're looking for land," Foster said.

Once a site is found, plans for a new church will be drawn up.

Foster said it will be next year before a new building is ready to occupy, hopefully in the spring.

He said New Life Assembly of God was interested in selling the current building because it is an older structure with maintenance costs, and is larger than the church needs.

The city bought the ARTS/West building in 2005 from the Nazarene Church and developed an arts center there. The Nazarenes officially deactivated the building as a church in September of 2004.