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Hall County and Gainesville districts are delaying the start of school Friday, Feb. 21, due to concerns of icy roadways.
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Prayers answered: Growing S. Hall church to add parking lot
Many Blackshear Place Baptist Church members have to cross Atlanta Highway to reach their cars in the Publix parking lot after Sunday’s church services. The church is set to turn a neighboring 5-acre lot into a parking lot after getting the go-ahead at a recent Oakwood City Council meeting.


Christopher Martin, who is in charge of administration ministry at Blackshear Place Baptist Church, talks about an upcoming parking lot expansion at the fast-growing church.

Church leaders are thankful for the growth, but more members means the need for more asphalt.

Blackshear Place Baptist Church at 3428 Atlanta Highway in Oakwood is working on a project to expand parking and add a connector road that is expected to help with traffic in and out of the campus.

In moving forward with the work, the church got Oakwood City Council’s recent blessing to rezone and annex 5 acres off Atlanta Highway next to Hall County Parks and Leisure Services’ South Hall Community Center.

"In the whole big scheme of a master plan we’re currently in the process of developing, part of that would be new parking lots," said Christopher Martin, who is in charge of the church’s administration ministry.

The church, which also sits off Mundy Mill Road, finished a multimillion dollar project in 2007 on renovations and 75,000 square feet in additions to the worship center.

As a result of that, "we’ve experienced phenomenal growth," Martin said.

The church has gone from a Sunday morning attendance average of 2,231 in 2007 to 2,640 this year. Sunday school has grown from 1,734 in 2007 to 1,829 this year.

"We’ve been growing since Pastor Jeff (Crook) got here in 2005 ... but we did experience a substantial amount of growth with the opening of the new space.

"We think a lot of people were able to come back just because ... there was a lot of space for people to move around."

The increased numbers also ignited the need for more parking.

"We have quite a bit of parking on our campus and we do use off-site parking," Martin said.

Oakwood Ace Hardware, which sits across from the church in Robson Crossing Shopping Center, has allowed the church to use its parking lot on Sunday mornings, he said.

Worshippers park in several church lots around the main building — some that require a lengthy walk. For those who’d rather pass on the hike, the church provides shuttle buses.

Also, police help with traffic control on Atlanta Highway with people crossing to the shopping center.

Traffic especially can get busy at the crossing, which is just south of Mundy Mill Road/Winder Highway.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has worked on roadways around the church as part an overall $75 million rebuilding and construction of roads and interchanges at Interstate 985.

That project, set for a February 2010 completion, "is currently ahead of schedule," said Teri Pope, a DOT spokeswoman.

Martin didn’t know the total number of parking spots at the church, but the new lot will create 200 spaces.

As part of the work, a small building that faces Atlanta Highway and that had been used as a business over the years, including a pawn shop, will be demolished, Martin said.

The church hopes to decide on the contractor by the end of the month and then complete the work in seven to eight weeks, depending on the weather.

"There’s a lot of site work that’s going to (happen) in this project," Martin said. "We’ve got a small temporary retention pond that is got to be piped and filled in."

The hope, then, is to have the parking lot completed before Easter, when the church is sure to draw huge crowds.

"It will help us out tremendously," Martin said.

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