A non-denominational congregation that currently holds worship services at Celebration High School paid $3.1 million on Friday for land in nearby Reunion for its first church building.
Lead Pastor Tim Ingram founded illuminate church in 2012 with 150 members, and the congregation has grown steadily each year.
"This past Easter, we had just under 1,000 souls in attendance," Ingram told GrowthSpotter. He said the church elders held a retreat last year and prayed over the question of whether to buy land for a permanent building.
"We've asked before and the answer was always no. This time the answer was yes, it's time to take the land," Ingram said.
Initially they focused their search in the Celebration community, reaching out to virtually every land owner. Then one of the elders learned about a 19-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Sinclair Road and Formosa Gardens Boulevard, at the the S.R. 429 Western Beltway interchange.
The site allows the church to expand its ministry to the fast-growing Four Corners area. It's large enough to sustain a full campus, while also allowing for the potential sale of outparcels to finance the future building construction.
"It was a no-brainer to us," Ingram said. "It's a miracle, we were able to buy it under (market) value."
Last month illuminate sold a 3,000-square-foot Celebration rowhouse overlooking the golf course for $515,000. The house had been deeded to the church in 2017 by Gary and Myrna Brown, and the proceeds of the sale went toward the land purchase.
Ingram said all of the members have been "extravagantly generous" in donating and pledging to the capital campaign. They hope to have the land paid off within two years. Only then will they start construction on the new church.
"Right now we're beginning to search for master plan consultants, so we can look at the entire (19) acres as one campus," he said. "We don't plan to chop it up into multiple entities. We want it to be an immersive campus, so if we sell off a piece, it will be to someone like-minded to our vision."
The seller was Winter Park-based Avanti Property Group, which had acquired the 126 acres spanning all four quadrants of the interchange in 2015 for $8 million. It's in a busy hub of activity, just north of Reunion West by Encore and east of a new 300-unit apartment complex to be built by DeBartolo Development that would span both sides of Sinclair Road.
Mattamy Homes, the master developer for Celebration's Island Village, will be extending Celebration Boulevard south all the way to C.R. 532 as a part of that development.