(Waco Tribune) - An abandoned and vandalized former church found new life Thursday as a growing community asset that will house, among other things, St. Andrew Orthodox Church, thanks to a property donation in Woodway.
“It feels great, absolutely wonderful to have our home here,” Reverend Father John Ballard said. “Even in the history of our Archdiocese, nothing like this has been done before.”
During the past three years, father-and-son duo A.W. and Rick Hines, with Hines Group Texas, worked with the church to establish a home for its congregation. Despite looking at various properties for a church headquarters, A.W. Hines found the former Waco Christian Fellowship Church property, 405 Estates Drive, and the idea of the church’s new home and a new vision for the property grew together, he said.
“This property was a problem. Kids were breaking into this place, beer bottles were everywhere and this place was really dangerous, because there was a leaky roof and a lot of water was coming in,” A.W. Hines said. “This (deal) has about three years in getting to this point, but now this condominium property is ready to be occupied.”
A.J. Hines led Woodway community leaders into a newly remodeled worship center and discussed the vision of the property Thursday. He said after renovating the entire 72,000-square foot parcel, he and his son established the property as Greater Waco Condominiums — a multi-unit space able to house multiple agencies, like churches, schools, day cares and other community entities.
“This property has turned out to be a win-win for the city of Woodway, for us and St. Andrew Orthodox Church, because this can really be a good option for a lot of businesses, churches, schools or others,” A.W. Hines said.”We will consider making an extremely reasonable partial purchase donation to make sure people will be able to get a good deal on a condominium.”
A.W. Hines said the initial vision was to make the entire property a home to St. Andrew Orthodox Church. However, once the Hines holding company purchased the building, Ballard and A.W. Hines said the entire property was too big for one entity.
On Thursday, A.J. Hines publicly announced the completion of the renovation and donated 15,000 square feet to St. Andrew’s — valued at $1.37 million. Ballard said he felt honored by the donation and new permanent home for the church.
“I want everyone to take ownership in this,” Ballard said. “I mean, none of this would have happened without A.W. and Rick, and we owe them a lot of gratitude. Now we can focus on being a church, growing as a church and engaging in the wider community.”
A.W. Hines said two units will be available for sale or lease as a part of the condominiums and vary in size. Each unit has its own private entrance area and parking.
As the first occupant at Greater Waco Condominiums, Ballard said congregation members are excited to establish their footprint as a local Orthodox church and a strong stakeholder in the regional effort.
“There is no way to put into words what this means to us and how far ahead of the game this puts us,” Ballard said. “We love the community we are in and by doing that, we are in our community to share to love of Jesus Christ — not just with the words that we speak, but with this and the things we can do.”