A little more than a year after settling into the new location it rehabbed from the former Phillips Paper Company warehouse at 1100 Elder St. in the First Ward, Ecclesia Church appears ready to begin another renovation project and move — this time to East Downtown. The church, which began its life 15 years ago as part of the Taft St. Coffee House complex in Montrose, signed a contract last Friday to purchase the 50,000-sq.-ft. former Meridian nightclub building at 1503 Chartres St. for $3.75 million, pastor and church founder Chris Seay announced during his sermon over the weekend.
The church plans to continue its serial-renovation, just-add-coffee-house growth strategy in the new space. (Taft St. Coffee House’s successor cafe in the First Ward is Paper Co., built into the church’s space there.) The Meridian building, where the nightclub closed in 2010, lies south of the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Toyota Center on the east side of the 59 overpass. The church had originally made several attempts to purchase the building back in 2009, Seay said. But a new chance arose recently, after a bankruptcy sale:
“The people that own the Treasures strip club become the high bidder to buy it out of bankruptcy,” Seay told his congregation Sunday. “But when the day comes that they need to have their funds, they don’t have their funds. And the judge takes it to the second bidder. That bidder brings the money to the table. He now owns the building, and the people at Treasures are planning to buy it from him.“
But the church was interested too. “Just so you know, it’s not like we’ve been planning this,” Seay said. “This is literally one of those properties that it comes on the market — that either we buy it or Treasures buys it . . . it’s as clear as that. And we have to move quickly, which is really hard for churches to do. Because we would tend to be — ‘Well, let’s pray about it for a year.’ And there would already be stripper poles all around the place at that point, right? . . . We could take them out, or find some creative way to use them in worship — but I don’t know what that is. But whatever they would do to the building would not be what we would do to the building.”
“We’re not going to buy a place to keep the strip club out,” Seay added, “but it’s not a bad bonus, right? Because it’s a key place in the city.”