Bayfront buys nearby church, school

Published March 28, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Bayfront Medical Center, which is undergoing a major expansion, purchased a nearby Seventh-day Adventist Church and school Monday.

Kanika Tomalin, Bayfront's corporate communications director, said the purchase is not connected to the hospital's current expansion.

"It's adjacent to property that is currently owned by Bayfront and the opportunity was just right. Exactly how it will be used is still under consideration," Tomalin said.

The hospital, which last year celebrated its centennial, bought Elim Seventh-day Adventist Church and school at Eighth Street and Sixth Avenue S for about $2-million.

The church and school, meanwhile, which had been at the roughly 51,000-square-foot site for about three decades, is buying the former Central Christian Church and school at 49th Street and First Avenue S. The closing is expected to be Friday.

Elim will pay $3.7-million for the Central Christian property. It had been on the market for $4.9-million. The Rev. Malcolm White, the Seventh-day Adventist pastor, said he is pleased to be able to move the school, which serves children from preschool to eighth grade, to larger quarters.

"It gives us the opportunity for better facilities suited for what we are trying to do for the young people, because we couldn't expand," White said. "A gymnasium was a part of the strategic plan. We are able to have that and larger classrooms."

Last summer, Central Christian moved its church to the Tyrone area and closed the upper grades of its school. It now only operates a preschool at its new location, 61st Street and 22nd Avenue N. The Rev. Stan Percival, Central Christian's pastor, also is happy about the purchase.

"I think it's great," he said. "Our goal was not to sell to anything but a church. We wanted a church and school in there and, lo and behold, here they come."

Percival said the Seventh-day Adventist church expressed interest in his church's property the very day last summer when a Neighborhood Times article appeared about Central Christian's move.

Faced with lower enrollment, Central Christian decided to close its middle and elementary schools and move to the Tyrone area, which is closer to where members of its congregation live.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at 727 892-2283 or moore@sptimes.com.