MEDFORD — Members of the newly founded Grace Point Fellowship will trade their temporary home inside the Craterian Theater for the sprawling square footage inside the bigger of two buildings that once housed Larson's Home Furnishings.
Pastor Tom Sabens said the new space at the corner of 10th and Fir streets would come with a lease option and enough space to house other ministry efforts that would serve various community groups.
Sabens confirmed this week that the church would take possession of the larger of two buildings, the multi-level 46,500-square-foot structure on the north side of 10th Street, by July 1.
Representatives for the Larson family declined to comment on any real estate dealings.
The longtime furniture store closed in September 2014 after a more than seven-decade run at the location, where the two structures are connected via a skywalk over 10th Street.
"It should be a lot of fun; it's definitely a lot more space than we currently have," said Sabens.
"We've got a lease option on it, so we can exercise an option to purchase at any time over a five-year period of time. We have kind of a community center vision. In fact, we're considering naming the building 'Grace Point Crossings' because it will house more than just the church."
Sabens said additional groups invited to join the church include Mercy's Gate, which helps young and low-income families find stable housing, and Antioch Fellowship, which will utilize the space for Saturday night services.
Grace Point Fellowship formed last fall under the leadership of Sabens, founder and head pastor of Table Rock Fellowship for 16 years.
Sabens noted a trend for churches to "recycle" old buildings and share spaces with other uses.
"This was a good opportunity to reclaim an older building that's been sitting there for awhile. There's a real trend across the country where churches are reclaiming old buildings so they aren't sitting vacant and the space is being used," Sabens said, noting that the second, smaller building, is being leased as a furniture store.
"The buildings are both solid, made of concrete. Our eventual goal would be to buy both buildings. It will be a great home for us."
City Planner Praline McCormack said the city was happy to see buildings utilized to avoid the issues that come with vacant spaces.
McCormack said until renovations are planned, the church would not need any special permits to use the space. A current heavy industrial zoning allows for church congregations.
"They wouldn't need any kind of review or planning commission approval on just using the space unless they plan improvements," she said.
"Whatever they decide, we're happy to see the buildings being used because it really brings more life to the downtown."
Sabens said the church congregation had no problems finding "the old Larson's building" due to its near landmark status in the downtown.
"We had an open house last week, and we had about 800 people show up. It's pretty funny how many people talked about the things they had bought there through the years like washers and dryers, couches. It's a building that has a lot of connections with people," Sabens said.
"All you have to say is the old Larson's building, and people know exactly where that is."
Sabens said the church would continue to meet at the Craterian at 9 and 11 a.m. Sundays until an occupancy permit is obtained for the new site.
For more information about the church, see gracepointoregon.com.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.