Church plans to spend $2 million to convert Titusville eyesore

The Grove Church hopes to open facility for Easter 2018

TITUSVILLE, Fla. – One of Titusville’s biggest eyesores -- an abandoned Gooding’s grocery store -- will soon be made new again as a local church vows to bring life back to the dilapidated building.

News 6 partner Florida Today reported that The Grove Church finalized the sale of the location Tuesday night and plans to make a $2 million renovation to the decaying property, which has sat abandoned for 19 years.

The 55,000-square-foot building sits on the corner of Harrison Street and Barna Avenue and was purchased for $750,000.

“We just believe in renovation and the revitalization of our city, and resurrecting this building,” said Brad Russell, lead pastor of The Grove Church. “We want to see something old be made new again.”

Plans call for a totally revamped building that includes a large lobby for social gatherings, a coffee shop, classrooms, offices, a children’s ministry and a 700 to 800-seat auditorium, among other features. Construction led by Loyd Contracting should begin in the next few weeks, said Brad Russell, and the church hopes to host its first service in the new facility Easter 2018.

“That’s the dream,” he said.

But there’s a long road ahead for the church to make its vision become a reality. As is, the building is a “big, empty shell,” said Brad Russell. The inside is dark and damp, as boards currently cover all of the windows. Roaches scatter across a stripped concrete floor as the trickling sound of water hits the floor in puddles throughout the facility.

“It’s our natural waterfall system,” joked Jason Walton, community pastor for the church.

Missing tiles checker the ceiling, and piles of debris and rotted roof material are scattered through the massive open space. A few signs are hung, labeling where things will go as the church makes progress.

The building needs just about everything: A new roof, air conditioning, an electrical system, flooring, walls and plumbing. It needs a total overhaul from “the ground up,” said Brad Russell. An old Gooding's sign and a 1990s-era payphone are the only items in the building that will remain. The team is toying with ideas on how to display the sign in the new church to pay homage to its history. 

Even with the building in rough shape, campus pastor Barry Russell said this is exactly what they wanted.

“We want to bring hope to a city that we love,” said Barry Russell, who runs the church with his brother and grew up in Titusville. Sporting a shirt that read “dealing hope to the community since 2011,” Barry Russell said it’s a fitting project for the growing church, which isn’t quite 6 years old yet.

The location is perfect, said Walton, who added, “It’s on the corner of where some say the community is divided.”

It’s a mile north of the La Cita Country Club community, but also adjacent to some of the city’s most impoverished areas. Walton said it’s just about the dead center of the city, “the heart of the city,” he said.

“It’s going to be a jewel in the center of town,” said executive pastor Dustin Sams.

The church hopes to work with a local nonprofit to serve the struggling neighborhoods nearby. Plans also include combining the church’s two campuses into one location. The Grove currently hosts services in Titusville at the YMCA gym and in Port St. John inside Challenger 7 Elementary School. A third campus is at the Brevard County Jail, where the church works with inmates.

There’s been enormous support, said Walton, an “overwhelming response,” from the community, which is excited to see change.

“People are really excited,” said Barry Russell.

That includes members of the Titusville City Council who unanimously approved the project at meeting on June 13.

“Gooding’s ranks right up there as an albatross around our neck,” said Councilman Dan Diesel. “I never in my lifetime thought I’d see somebody want to buy that thing. I want to know who the heck had the guts to walk in that thing first, because I would not.

“Not only yes, but thank you.”

Mayor Walt Johnson added, “Not only thank you, but thank God.”

The church will host a “housewarming party” Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will guide tours through the building for those anxious to see the inside of the mysterious structure. Bounce houses, food and a party in the parking lot will take place as well.