Work has started to turn the old South Hall Community Center into a student ministry center for Blackshear Place Baptist Church.
The church, which held a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday evening, has begun phase one of the project, which involves gutting the building, then putting in new walls, bathrooms and other interior features.
"The steel structure and the slab are staying the same," said church administrator Christopher Martin. "It's a careful demolition. ... And the interior will completely come out as well."
The goal is to have the building basically completed sometime in late winter, he said.
"And then, at that point, depending on how funds are coming in, we'll start the next (phase)," Martin said.
The final phase of work will include adding Bible
fellowship space, a cafe and landscaping.
Total construction costs will be $1.8 million to $1.9 million.
Church officials, who have vowed not to take on any debt as part of the project, plans to occupy the building after the first phase is completed.
"We're just excited about getting the building going," Martin said. "It's been sitting there for a while."
The faded blue metal and brick building off Atlanta Highway probably is familiar to many residents, as the Hall County Parks and Leisure Services operated out of it for years,Hall leased it the past seven years at no cost from Blackshear Place.
The county stopped operations there Nov. 4, opening the Mulberry Creek Community Center at 4491 JM Turk Road on Nov. 14.
In an interview earlier this year, pastor Jeff Crook said the church didn't know at first how to use the space.
Then, it became clear the church needed more room for students.
Young families have made up much of the church's growth.
Space was opened up in 2008 for preschool-age and older children, with those areas quickly filling up.
"As they go to the (teenage) student group, we need to make room for them," Crook said. "So, this (new center) was like a natural step of progression for us."
Students showed their enthusiasm for the project at Sunday's ceremony, which drew about 600 people.
They were allowed to spray-paint favorite Scripture or messages on building areas targeted for demolition.
The church also hung a banner across the building that read, "Reaching Generation Now, Leaving Your Mark."