Iglesia Pentecostal Restaurando la Familia, the first Spanish-language church in the small city of Oakland, received a Christmas gift early last week by closing Dec. 23 on the $500,000 purchase of a 1.2-acre parcel and commercial building, the church's first home it could call its own.
Plans will begin in the coming weeks on extensive renovations to the property, work the church is openly seeking contractors for that may be willing to donate their time and energy, said David Rodriguez, one of the congregation's leaders who helped the church in its real estate search.
"We haven't estimated the cost of investment yet, but we would welcome any donations of cash or services to help with this process," Rodriguez said. "We'll redevelop this old building into a church that will serve the community for a long time."
The Iglesia Pentecostal has been active in Winter Garden for the past 14 years, and has operated for the past three years in a leased space at 1208 E. Story Road.
The growth of the church's congregation and financial savings prompted Pastor Ronaldo Perez to begin looking earlier this year to purchase a property in the area, Rodriguez said.
Perez and Rodriguez first settled on 301 Tubb St. in Oakland, a 0.69-acre parcel occupied by a small two-story office building. The church reached a deal with that seller for $500,000, but hit resistance in mid-October from Oakland's Planning & Zoning Board.
The P&Z board wouldn't give its recommendation for a special exception to be made on the property for use as a church, citing inadequate parking.
Ali Mushtaq, senior advisor with SVN who represented the church, advised his clients after that P&Z hearing they would have little chance of approval from Oakland's city commissioners and mayor if they pursued the special exception on that parcel.
"The pastor and I realized we had to keep looking, we didn't want to fight the city any further. Being the first Spanish church in Oakland, we just wanted them to embrace us," Rodriguez said. "But everything happens for a reason. I think it was that same night we searched online again and found a newly-listed property on E. Oakland Avenue."
Attention was redirected to a 1.22-acre parcel at 421 E. Oakland Ave., directly across the street from the Oakland Avenue Charter School. It features a single-story, 6,596-square-foot commercial building built in 1928 with the space and parking to serve a growing church.
Mushtaq made an immediate offer of $500,000, put it under contract, and this time Oakland's P&Z board and city commissioners granted a special exception for use of the site as a church earlier this month.
Rodriguez will now work with Kirby Engineering and architect Creative FormWORKS to file renovation plans for the commercial building with the city in the coming weeks. The church has yet to hire contractors for the work.