MBC agrees to sell Baptist Building to Cole County
By Bob Baysinger
August 31, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) has agreed to sell the Baptist Building, home of the MBC since 1970, to Cole County.
David Clippard, MBC executive director signed a contingency contract Aug. 24, authorizing the sale of the eight-story building to the county. The contract is contingent upon Cole County voters passing a tax levy to create funds for the purchase and also upon other landowners in the 400 block of East High Street agreeing to sell their property to the county.
Bob Jones, Cole County presiding commissioner, told The Pathway Aug. 25 that the county is trying to put together a master plan which includes buying several pieces of property around the Baptist Building and tearing down the buildings to make room for a new judicial center.
“They offered (an amount)to be paid in February/March of 2005 or when funds come available from the tax levy,” said Jody Shelenhamer, a member of First Baptist Church, Bolivar, and chairman of the MBC relocation study committee, in an Aug. 11 letter to Clippard.
“They have agreed to allow us to stay in the building for 18 months (once county voters approve the levy),” he said. “We feel like this is a fair offer.”
David Tolliver, MBC president, recently provided information pertaining to the sale of the building to other board members. Tolliver described the Cole County offer as “one that is beneficial to all concerned.”
“The MBC headquarters building is in need of repair and remodel,” Tolliver added. “Over the next several years, if we remain in the present building, we will spend several million dollars to maintain and upgrade our facilities”
Cole County Commissioners told the MBC relocation committee that they believed passage of the bond issue would occur easily.
Tolliver applauds the contract which calls for the MBC to receive full payment for the building within 30 days of closing and to have up to 18 months to search for a new location for the organization.
“That means two things primarily,” Tolliver said. “First, we will have ample time to seek the will of God concerning our relocation. Secondly, (the price paid for the property) will be collecting interest for more than one year – perhaps up to 18 months. That is good stewardship.”
Tolliver said the board and the executive director have examined closely all contracts regarding the Baptist Building, including a contract signed by Jim Hill, former executive director, granting a 20-year rent-free lease to the Missouri Baptist Foundation.
“We are prepared to take them with us,” Tolliver said. “There may be some things happen between now and then that will impact this legally, but we are prepared to take them along. I might add, however, that we have no earthly idea where we will go. We have this contract, and we believe God dropped this thing in our lap.”
Tolliver said messengers will be asked at the MBC’s annual meeting Oct. 25-27 at First Baptist Church, Raytown, to “extend our boundaries beyond mid-Missouri” in the search for a new Baptist Building site.
“This is not to say that our first choice isn’t Jefferson City, but it is to say we need to allow the cities and communities of Missouri to sort of bid on us. We think we have something to offer to communities. We’re going to be asking the convention to amend our scope and let us look.”
Don Shinkle, executive director of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber is aware of a possible move by the MBC, which employs about 75 full-time workers.
“But we’re doing everything we can to work with various individuals with a common effort of retaining the Missouri Baptist Convention in Jefferson City,” Shinkle said. “We strongly believe that the Missouri Baptist Convention is an integral part of the community. We’re doing everything we can within our power to keep them right here.”
In addition to the jobs, Shinkle said the MBC provides extended use of motel and hotel facilities and area restaurants.
“Any community ought to want us to be a part of their community,” Tolliver said. “We don’t cause any problems. Our employees better the communities where they live.
“There is no question in my mind that I think Jefferson City is the best place to be because it is the seat of state government. But Columbia also would be a strong possibility because of the easy access to Interstate 70.”
Before 1970, the MBC was headquartered in some tight quarters at 211 Adams St., one-half block from the Baptist Building. Growing pains, however, forced the convention to look for more space as early as the 1950s.
Drawings for a new Baptist Building were completed in 1955, and the Executive Board purchased a 17-acre tract of land inside the city limits of Jefferson City along U.S. 54 South in 1959.
Messengers attending the 1964 convention voted to build on the 17-acre tract as soon as financing could be approved. Two years later, the convention approved financing of the building.
Plans changed in 1969 when the Executive Board heard about the possibility of buying the Missouri Hotel building. Discussions centered around renovating the building in lieu of building a new structure on the 17-acre tact.
Meeting at First Baptist Church, Cape Girardeau, messengers on Oct. 28, 1969, voted unanimously to purchase the old hotel for the sum of $586,155.60.
On Dec. 15, 1969, the Executive Board voted to issue $1.8 million first mortgage Missouri Baptist Convention bonds to assist in completing the Baptist Building renovation.
The first renovation plan called for replacement of all windows in the hotel and wrapping the building with a screen mesh, finishing only five of the eight floors. The final plan, however, included remodeling of all eight floors, replacing the heating and air conditioning systems plus new furniture at an estimated cost of $2.66 million.
The final building design pointed to three background cultures of the Christian faith. The black columns symbolize the Greek culture. The arch symbolizes the Roman culture. The lights, which come on automatically at night, represent the Jewish culture and religion through which the true light, the Lord Jesus Christ, came.