CORNELIUS – The struggling Kenton Place development in Cornelius got a potential shot in the arm after becoming the new home of Elevation Church at Lake Norman.
At the April 22 Cornelius Town Board meeting, a public hearing was held to discuss the requested rezoning that would allow Charlotte’s fastest-growing mega church to stretch out to North Mecklenburg.
After a presentation by Elevation Church officials, the board voted 2-1 in favor of the approval. Commissioner Jeff Hare voted against the approval citing a loss of property tax revenue as his only concern. Commissioners Chuck Travis and Dave Gilroy voted in favor of the approval. Commissioner John Bradford Was absent from the meeting.
“I am very much in favor of this with the one exception,” Hare said. “I just don’t think it’s consistent with our economic development initiatives we have here. It just doesn’t seem to be fair.”
Hare asked Bill Brown, the town’s attorney, if there is any sort of conditions that could be created to make sure the church is “making an effort to pay a fair share” of taxes related to their non-church use.
“The answer is no,” Brown said. “Zoning laws really regulate the uses. It doesn’t really regulate the financial impacts of those uses. It talks about impacts in terms of traffic. But in terms of the tax consequences, I don’t really think we can consider the tax exempt nature.”
Gary Cangelosi, developer of Kenton Place, disagreed with Hare’s assessment, highlighting the potential revenue from local businesses from the three services of 1,200 people every Sunday.
“In some ways, this is like a loss leader,” Cangelosi said. “You’re not going to get the property tax, but you’re going get a tremendous boost in the gains in revenue from other groups. Instead of worrying about the loss of tax revenue, he needs to look at the impact on businesses because of (Elevation).”
When the facility is not being used for church service, the building will serve as a 1,200 seat secular event center.
Elevation Church’s Chief Financial Officer Chunks Corbett told the board that 40 percent of the revenue for the Blakeney campus in Charlotte is generated by the secular uses throughout the week.
“We are losing revenue and also tax base because there’s no entertainment center,” Cangelosi said. “We are getting a $6.5 million performing arts center that doesn’t look like a church. We can’t use it on Sundays, but who cares, they don’t have concerts on Sunday anyway.”
Seven and a half years ago, lead pastor Steven Furtick moved his family to Charlotte with the vision of opening up the first Elevation Church.
Fast forward to today, and Elevation has seven locations with almost 15,000 members, of which 250 households travel to Charlotte from the Lake Norman region to attend service.
Elevation Church will be remodeling the 5.1-acre property where the Palace Theater once existed before it was bought out by Eastern Federal, owners of Regal Birkdale Stadium.
Since the purchase, nothing has been able to occupy the space consistent enough to establish a strong anchor for Kenton Place.
For the last few months, the space has been occupied by Havana Social Club.
Elevation Church will be making major improvements to get the space up to the standards of their other churches.
About $5 million will be invested for interior improvements, including a new stage, auditorium, break out rooms on each side of the building and a redesigned entrance lobby.
An additional $1.5 million will be spent on audio and video upgrades to the site.
Construction is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2014.
“This is a beautiful project,” Mayor Lynette Rinker said. “Its going to be a magnificent addition to our community. You are going to bring so much to the fabric of our community and the quality of life. So, go out there and pull the construction trailer in the morning.”