Abandoned and vacant for ten years, an old automotive dealership gets new life to bring generations together.
Alison Istnick · December 29, 2017
Developed mid-1960 as a Chevrolet auto dealership, the structure had changed owners several times, serving a variety of automotive businesses.
The building and lot had become an eyesore. However, in the eyes of Memorial Baptist Church leadership it looked like an opportunity to reinvent the property as a new facility to call home. With no real expectation for acquiring the property, the church made a bid for an amount they could afford — about half of its estimated worth.
On auction day, several large developers surprisingly failed to make a bid on the property, and the church gratefully became the properties’ new owner. Memorial Baptist Church was originally founded in 2010 as a new church plant in the town of Newport under the leadership of Rev. Harold Ball. Their first service was held in Newport’s Memorial building.
After that first meeting the town’s fire Marshall condemned the structure, but the name stuck. Soon after acquiring their new property, Memorial Baptist engaged Studio Four Design of Knoxville, Tenn. to work on transforming the derelict building into one that would give new life as a home for their church body.
At approximately 15,200sf, the building was comprised of an auto showroom, several business offices, restrooms and a large space for vehicle repair. Stacy Cox, principal and director of business development with Studio Four Design recalls, “The church was intentional about not wanting this building to look too modern, at the same time they didn’t want it to look too old fashioned. Instead they envisioned a transitional ministry to bridge the gap between traditional Baptist church models and contemporary church models — one that would appeal to younger generations.”