by: David Ham Updated:Bellevue, Wash. —
Mars Hill Church has started a campaign to encourage its congregation to pray that it would be able to buy a piece of land that could be the mega-church's new headquarters. The property is at the old International Paper warehouse on 120th Avenue Northeast. It's 10.5 acres and was bought by Sound Transit back in June for $23 million. It's one of four sites Sound Transit is considering using for a new light-rail storage facility. Geoffrey Patrick of Sound Transit expects 30 miles of light-rail extensions in the coming decade, adding, "It's a lot more light-rail vehicles we're going to need to maintain and store."
Mars Hill Bellevue is one of 15 campuses in five states. The church estimates about 2,500 people worship at the Bellevue location every Sunday. "Our church is growing fast, our lease is up and we have to move, and there's only one place that will fit us," said Justin Dean, spokesperson for Mars Hill Church. He said the lease for its current building is up in 2017. The church expects the congregation in Bellevue to grow to 5,000 people every Sunday in the coming years.
Mars Hill had put in an offer to buy the International Paper warehouse property, but Sound Transit's offer was accepted. "We made an offer and at that point it appears like an offer from Transit was activated and everything was awarded to them instead," said Dean.
"They're talking to our policymakers, our board. I would say it would be fairly unusual, having identified these four sites in December of last year, to just drop two of them out of consideration," said Patrick. But Mars Hill is encouraging its congregation to be persistent in prayer. The church launched a website encouraging members to email Sound Transit. "We've been trying to work with Sound Transit directly, to just have conversations with them and to work with them to see if one of the other options they have would be better suited for the maintenance yard," said Dean.
Even with the campaign, Patrick doesn't think it's likely Sound Transit will make a decision on selling the land anytime soon. "I don't think it would be very likely that we would make a decision to sell the property before thoroughly evaluating if we might need it for the transit system," said Patrick.
The Sound Transit board is expected to make a final decision on what to do with the property in 2015. Even if the board decides to sell the land in a competitive bidding process, Patrick said the board would prefer to sell it to an owner who would use it to encourage transit in the area.