Texas Baptists, Baylor agree to sale of Baptist Building in Dallas

Sale will fund relocation of staff, though new location is not yet determined.

By Marv Knox and Ken Camp

The governing boards of Baylor University and the Baptist General Convention of Texas have approved the sale of the convention’s Baptist Building in Dallas to the university.

Baylor regents affirmed the sale May 16, and the BGCT executive board unanimously agreed May 20.

The BGCT executive board staff office building is located adjacent to the Baylor Health Care System’s flagship campus, east of downtown Dallas. In 2012, university officials contacted BGCT Executive Director David Hardage about purchasing the facility for its Louise Herrington School of Nursing, housed for decades on the health care system’s campus.

baptist building 10Messengers to the 2013 BGCT annual meeting in San Antonio granted the convention’s executive board and an ad hoc committee authority to consider the sale of the Baptist Building.

An independent appraisal valued the Baptist Building at $13.7 million, Hardage told the executive board.

The sale agreement involves cash and several “other considerations” offered by the university, which the executive board values at $16 million, he reported. They include:

• Direct payment of $8 million in cash.

• Additional payment of $5 million delivered across 10 years, financed by the BGCT at an annual interest rate of 5 percent. This amount could be paid earlier if the university raises the funding.

• Baylor will underwrite the cost of holding the BGCT annual meeting in Waco four times, not including the previously scheduled 2014 meeting. The executive board estimates this value to range between $1 million and $1.25 million.

• Relocation of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection, currently housed in the Baptist Building, to an off-campus site in Waco. Baylor will provide at no cost to the BGCT a building with at least 10,000 square feet — double the space the collection occupies in Dallas. In time, the university also will digitize the most important material in the collection. This value is listed at $2 million.

“On the one hand, the value of having the historical record digitized is invaluable. On the other hand, it is so expensive, we would never be able to afford to have it done,” Hardage said.

The BGCT will maintain ownership and operation of the historical collection and archives, he added.

In addition, the convention owns a parking lot and a vacant lot near the Baptist Building, which the executive board will sell independently. Those properties have been appraised at $1.25 million, bringing expected cash and related values of the building sale to $17.25 million, Hardage said.

The combined amount surpasses the “break number” an appraiser initially indicated the convention could expect to receive for the property, Hardage told the executive board.

Comparisons

The nursing school building is about 65 years old, Hardage said, and the Baptist Building is 26 years old. The Baptist Building comprises 100,000 square feet on four floors, and the nursing school covers about 35,000 square feet.

The executive board uses about 50,000 square feet of its building, Hardage said. So, the board could lease, buy or build that amount or less.

The board will use a building maintenance endowment to care for the new space. That fund is not sufficient to cover all the Baptist Building expenses. So the change could save about $350,000 in annual costs, he predicted.

The timeline for the sale provides the university 180 days to conduct a building inspection, which will push the closing date to the end of this year. The sale agreement provides the executive board nine months of free rent in 2015, a savings of about $250,000, Hardage said.

Addressing relocation, Hardage predicted, “The bulk of our group would stay relatively close” to the current building site, although “relatively close” is hard to define.

The Texas Baptist Historical Collection staff will move to Waco. Gus Reyes, new executive director of the Christian Life Commission, is moving to Austin, and the entire CLC staff eventually could move there. The River Ministry staff may move to San Antonio, a location more favorable for directing work along the Texas-Mexico border.

Staff relocation

Location of the next executive board offices will be determined “as soon as possible,” Hardage reported.

Any office move will inconvenience some employees and convenience others, he acknowledged, adding a “sizeable focus” of the study regarding the building took into account impact on employees. But he reported receiving an email from an employee who told him: “We’re missionaries. Wherever he [God] leads, we’ll go.”

The ad hoc committee that helped guide negotiations with Baylor kept two goals in mind, he said: “One, what’s God’s will in this matter? Two, what is best for Texas Baptists? … We affirm and embrace a faith-based nursing school, but our goal is what’s best for Texas Baptists.”

Funds from the Baptist Building sale will be used to provide and relocate offices, he told executive board members. “I also have a personal interest in setting up a sizeable reserve so we can respond to needs around Texas,” Hardage added, citing the state’s rapid growth and urgent needs for evangelism, church starting and ministry.

“Texas is a mission field,” he stressed. “Forty-five percent of people in Texas, spiritually speaking, don’t believe in anything or anyone.”

When asked how distribution of funds received from the Baptist Building sale would be determined, he responded: “That’s a collaborative effort we do together. As far as where we office next, our ad hoc committee would do that. But as far as how we channel these assets, that’s an executive board responsibility.”

Hardage pointed to Baptist Student Ministry buildings in need of repair, young ministers who could attend BGCT meetings if they received some financial assistance, and expansion of Hispanic evangelism and African-American youth programs as areas where resources might be directed.

Reaction

Asked about response to the possible sale from “older Texas Baptists who would see that [Baptist] Building as an accomplishment,” Hardage said: “I’m very sensitive to those people. My father is one.”

He reported meeting with a group of retired ministers and missionaries who provided their feedback about selling the Baptist Building. “They were very enthusiastic,” he said. “Their heart is for reaching Texas, not having a building. There heart is where we are as a people.”

He also added he received “a very gracious email of encouragement” from Bill Pinson, BGCT executive director when the Baptist Building was constructed.

Texas Baptists built the BGCT executive board staff office building in 1988 on land leased from Baylor Health Care System. The executive board used proceeds from the sale of property in downtown Dallas, combined with trust funds, to pay for construction. Ten years later, the health care system’s board of directors voted to give the land, valued at $2.5 million, to the BGCT executive board.

As surely as Texas Baptist leaders a quarter-century ago viewed the move from downtown Dallas to the Baylor Health Care System area as “providential,” the university’s purchase of the Baptist Building likewise shows evidence of God at work, Hardage said.

“This is the right time and the right opportunity for the next step for Texas Baptists,” he said. “God has taken us on a journey that has put us in a good place to be for the future.”

Continual change will characterize that future, Hardage added. “I don’t see any time in our future when we won’t be in some state of change.”

Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr applauded the action.

“Today, we honor and celebrate Baylor University’s longstanding and significant relationship with the BGCT in a historic manner that benefits both institutions,” Starr said. “The Baptist Building will greatly enhance the ministry of Baylor’s outstanding nursing program, which is at capacity on its current campus, while strengthening our growing partnership with the Baylor Health Care System.

“We also look forward to expanding and strengthening in a variety of ways Baylor’s on-going relationship with the BGCT. We are deeply grateful to the leadership of the convention for their continued interest in the mission of Baylor University as we work together for the cause of Christ in our hurting world.”