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What’s changing, staying the same in converting church to apartments
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Frank Norton tours the old New Holland United Methodist Church Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, as work has already begun the conversion of the old church into apartments. - photo by Scott Rogers

Walking through the web of lumber that fills the old building’s interior, Frank Norton Jr. is beginning to see what the casual observer might not — trendy new apartments paying homage to the structure’s church past.

“You have to have a love for old buildings to do this kind of stuff,” said Norton, chairman and CEO of The Norton Agency in Gainesville.

Norton and brother Bob Norton are working to repurpose the old New Holland United Methodist Church off Spring Street, as part of a business known as Incredible Properties.

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Work is underway on the conversion of the old New Holland United Methodist Church into apartments Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. - photo by Scott Rogers

“These are very unique housing properties we will be doing,” Norton said after a visit to the church earlier this week. “It is my brother’s and my favorite project that we have ever been involved with.”

The church closed in 2013. The building, which has housed both Methodist and Baptist churches in its more than 100 years, is an iconic New Holland structure, with its bell tower overlooking Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Norton has said he plans to retain the building’s character, along with its Shaker craftsman architecture. 

That includes moving the old church bell from the tower, which had windows at one time, to the ground in front of the building, he said.

Other than fresh paint, “from the outside, everything is going to look the same,” Norton said. “It will all look original.”

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Exposed beams of the old New Holland United Methodist Church will be incorporated into the design of an apartment inside the old church. Frank Norton is converting the church into apartments but keeping the original aesthetic throughout. - photo by Scott Rogers

An outside chair lift that gave handicapped access to the old church entrance and acrylic glass covering a large window facing Spring Street will be removed.

In what is a $1 million makeover, the Nortons will keep most of the structure intact, including timber, doors, floors, windows and — in configuring upstairs apartments, where the sanctuary was — high ceilings.

Stained glass will be used, including as a feature over kitchen sinks.

And “we are using period light fixtures,” Frank Norton said. 

Norton hopes to start renting units by November or December, with rents starting at $750 per month.