A growing Lexington church that dropped its plans to buy the former Julia R. Ewan Elementary School property because of neighborhood opposition is hopeful it has found a new home for its congregation.
Jimmy Fields, executive pastor of Vineyard Community Church, said Sunday the evangelical church with more than 600 members is under contract to buy the former Aldersgate United Methodist Church at 1881 Eastland Parkway.
"Nothing is for certain about this, but we have made an offer for it, subject to an appraisal," Fields said. "We hope to have something finalized in October."
Fields declined to say how much Vineyard is offering for the property, owned by St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lexington.
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The possible acquisition was announced at Vineyard's three weekend services Saturday and Sunday.
Last month, Vineyard dropped plans to buy the former school property after many residents in the neighborhood off Richmond Road between Idle Hour Country Club and Henry Clay Boulevard made it clear they didn't want the church there.
Vineyard had a $1.5 million contract to buy the school property.
Many homes in the neighborhood had signs in their yards opposing Vineyard's proposed move to the school site. At a public hearing in July, some residents said they were concerned about increased traffic throughout the neighborhood, parking, noise and outreach programs the church might have.
Fields said Vineyard is excited about the move to the Aldersgate church, which closed a couple years ago.
But, he acknowledged, "It's going to be challenging to meet our needs there as it is now."
Fields noted the Ewan building had 70,000 square feet compared with 15,000 at Aldersgate.
"Aldersgate will require some renovations, but it also has room for expansion with its 3.1 acres," he said.
Vineyard has been renting property at 817 Winchester Road for about five years; its lease there expires in December. Before that, Vineyard held services at the Carmike 10 theater off Man o' War Boulevard for 31/2 years.
The church started with 12 people, holding services at Shoney's Inn on Richmond Road. It recently started another church in Richmond with about 300 members.
"We're hopeful about the Aldersgate property. That's the right word — hopeful," Fields said. "We don't have to worry about its conditional use permit because it already is a church.
"It would be a church going to a church."