Midtown Raleigh News

Real Deals: Vintage Church has contract to buy downtown Raleigh’s historic Long View Center


Vintage Church, the fast-growing nondenominational church that holds weekly services in three Triangle locations, has a contract to purchase the Long View Center across from Moore Square.

The contract calls for Vintage to pay $2.2 million in cash and to hand over the deed to a 7.8-acre tract on New Bern Avenue that the church acquired for $1.7 million. The property, once owned by the Raleigh Rescue Mission, is vacant.

The 30,000-square-foot Long View Center is owned by local developer and philanthropist Gordon Smith III. Smith’s company, The Wood Pile, filed for bankruptcy in early 2009 after the real estate market collapsed and has been selling off land around Moore Square to pay off creditors.

Vintage has the Long View Center under contract until Dec. 30. The church needs to raise $400,000 by Dec. 1 to complete the purchase. As of Sunday, it had raised nearly $238,000.

Tyler Jones, Vintage’s lead pastor, said he expects the church to raise the necessary funds. Vintage had initially planned to build a church on its New Bern property, but Jones said the Long View Center is a better fit.

“We love the neighborhood, and we love that piece of property, but the Long View Center was a larger building than we could have built there,” he said. “It’s more cost effective for us.”

He said the deal will lower Vintage’s monthly mortgage payments, as the value of the New Bern property has increased since the church bought it in 2011.

“The property really did gain a lot of value for us,” Jones said. “There’s good equity in the property for us.”

Vintage is acquiring both the center’s sanctuary, which dates to 1880, and its annex. The purchase does not include a smaller building owned by Smith’s wife, or an unfinished office building that is also owned by Wood Pile. Vintage has, for a limited time, the right-of-first-refusal to acquire those buildings should buyers come forward.

The purchase agreement requires Vintage to honor a number of covenants on the property, including that the center remain a venue for live acoustic music and concerts. The center has recently hosted events both for the Hopscotch music festival and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s convention and festival.

“We hope to do it for years in the future,” Jones said. “We’re eager to do those things. We really want to benefit the city. We have lots of plans to use the building, not just for our church.”

Vintage has been leasing space in the 117 S. West St. building that was once home to Jillian’s. But Jones said the church has outgrown the space, as it now draws between 800 and 1,000 members to its three Sunday services. The church also holds weekly services at its campuses near North Hills and in downtown Durham.

Smith said he’s not sure whether he’ll be able to retain the New Bern property after the deal closes. He has spent the past five years working to pay back his creditors, which in recent months has resulted in a number of property sales around Moore Square.

Area around square changing

Wood Pile sold a 2-acre block to an investment group that plans to build a 224-unit apartment complex called The Lincoln. Wood Pile also sold 12 contiguous parcels on the block directly east of Moore Square to the city of Raleigh for $3.73 million.

The development of those properties, in addition to the 23-story SkyHouse apartment tower under construction at Blount and Martin streets, promises to transform the area around Moore Square.

Few can appreciate the changes taking place as much as Smith, 70, who led the effort to build what is now the Marbles Kids Museum.

“I’ve been probably the most active person in the Moore Square area for 25 years,” he said.