Town Eyes Church Building As Rec Center

By Steve Jusseaume

Hampton Union, Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Maranatha Church
A for sale sign sits in front of Marantha Assembly of God Church in Hampton. Town officials are considering asking Hampton voters if they would approve buying the site to create a recreation center.
[Staff photo by Jackie Ricciardi]

HAMPTON - The Maranatha Assembly of God church, a fixture in Hampton for the past 25 years, is considering relocating farther south, and its headquarters on High Street is up for sale.

One potential buyer, the town of Hampton, has been looking for years to purchase or build a community center.

According to Maranatha's pastor, J.D. Minerella, half of the church's 100 parishioners live in Seabrook, and others live as far south as Amesbury. To better serve its congregation, said Minerella, the regional church is looking at other sites in the southern part of the state. The asking price for the building is $1.2 million.

"We're actively looking for a new site and have looked at one building in Seabrook just off Interstate 95 that would fit our needs," Minerella said this week.

The building being considered by church elders includes a 40-foot by 80-foot great room - ideal for a church - as well as a number of smaller rooms that could be used as classrooms or meeting rooms. The 15,000-square-foot building has "endless possibilities," said Minerella.

But in order to buy, the current building at 150 High St. must be sold, and Minerella said the church needs to get $1.2 million or it will not relocate. "If we don't get our price, we'll just stay here," he said.

Several prospective buyers have looked at the property, Minerella added. Some law firms have expressed interest; developers have eyed the building for apartments; and at least one nonprofit organization is looking for a home for troubled teens.

And then there's the town.

Town Manager James Barrington told the Board of Selectmen last week that he had toured the building with other town officials, including recreation director Dyana Martin and building inspector Kevin Schultz, and he saw some possibilities.

The building includes large meeting spaces, is centrally located, and is already off the tax rolls, so no tax revenue would be lost if the town purchased the building. Parking is "somewhat" restricted, Barrington noted, but some vehicles could be accommodated at the junior high school across the street.

Selectman Ginny Bridle said she liked the idea, but noted that voter approval would be required, and that couldn't happen until next March at best. Selectman Brian Warburton expressed enthusiasm about the possibility of the town buying the building since the Recreation Department already sponsors some programs at the church.

Pastor Minerella too would like to see the town buy the place. And he's not that concerned about waiting until next March.

"It really would be ideal for the town; there are so many possibilities in this building," he said. "We are in no real hurry to move. Maybe March next year would work. ... There is a time and place for everything," said Minerella.

[See also, Odyssey House: 'Special Needs School OK'd';
also, New School Gets Board's Approval]