ROSWELL, Ga. — Eagles Nest Church will find its permanent home next year in a newly announced multi-use development: The Beacon at East Roswell, a commercial multi-use property that will replace the vacant Kohl’s lot on Holcomb Bridge Road.
Eagles Nest Church founder Pastor Lee Jenkins unveiled the development plan at a community meeting on April 30 at Centennial High School. The preliminary plan features event space, multipurpose rooms, a common area with a “Starbucks type atmosphere,” a childcare facility and an 800-seat auditorium for church services on 15.5 acres.
Jenkins expects to start using the space by spring 2024.
“There’s a lot of talk out there, ‘Is this going to be just a church?’ and no, it’s so much more,” Jenkins said.
The church founder and senior pastor has spent years planning to relocate his 3,000-member church to a permanent home.
In the meantime, Eagles Nest Church found a temporary home at Centennial High School across the street from Kohl’s site. The auditorium is small, so many of the church members must attend Eagles Nest services entirely online.
Jenkins spent years eyeing the Kohl’s property, once home to Rite-Aid, Moe’s, Petco and Kohl’s— all but the Petco now shuttered. The rest of the lot has been vacant since 2016.
He attempted to purchase and redevelop the property into a church and pickleball sports and recreation facility in 2020 with Competitive Social Venture, but the developers backed out in March 2022. The pastor said he “had to let the deal die” until he could find a new partner.
Jenkins wanted to keep the church close to the Kohl’s site, though, to get the membership used to the East Roswell area. In December 2022, he found a new partner and purchased the property.
A new partner
Eagles Nest Church is now working with Regent Partners, a real estate development company that specializes in mixed-use properties. Founder and chairman of the company David Allman joined the community meeting to talk about the property plans.
Allman and Pastor Jenkins said that while part of the property is a space for Eagles Nest Church, the plan is to make it a “thriving hub” in East Roswell with more than weekly services.
“It’d be foolish not to think of this as a community asset that you want to leverage for the benefit of the community,” Allman said.
The pastor said he’s been in touch with Roswell city leaders as well.
“We’ve had conversations with the City Council and mayor, and, you know, they’d like to see this be a destination location,” Jenkins said.
Roswell City Councilman Peter Vanstrom, the city’s liaison to economic development, attended the meeting and said the city will be working “hand in hand” to make the Beacon plans a reality.
“I actually campaigned on these subjects right here, making sure that East Roswell is taken care of, and that East Roswell grows and continues to flourish,” Vanstrom said.
For Jenkins, anchoring the property at the Kohl’s site was essential. As a long-term resident of East Roswell, the pastor wanted to spur economic activity in the area.
“From a business standpoint, when I look at East Roswell, I would describe it as being partly cloudy and sometimes storming,” Jenkins said. “I believe what we’re discussing today, we’re going to see the sun rise again in East Roswell.”
While some of the anchoring development plans including the auditorium and childcare facility are set in stone, the developer is still considering options for the rest of the space. Allman said the group is considering food and beverage options, as well as recreational and entertainment opportunities.
“We’re beginning to home in on a few ideas, but you know, there’s flexibility in what we do there,” Allman said.
Due to the multi-use development plans the property will keep its commercial zoning. Pastor Jenkins also said they will pay regular taxes on the property, not relying on churches’ typically tax-exempt status.
“The majority of this property will be used for non-church related activities; therefore, we will be paying taxes like a regular for-profit,” Jenkins said.
Creating a destination
The pastor showed a general “initial rendering” of plans for the existing property and explained some of the decisions, like keeping the auditorium size to about 800-1,000 seats.
Jenkins said it could benefit Eagles Nest to have a 2,000-seat auditorium, but it would discourage people from using the space for other events like weddings.
“We need to keep it big enough to accommodate what we want to do and a lot of the events we would like to have, but it has to be smaller to not lose that intimate feel,” Jenkins said.
The church and developers plan to open the first phase of development by March or April 2024, Jenkins said. Phase one will focus on the core Kohl’s property building with the auditorium, common spaces and daycare. The other phases will focus on the outparcels, other buildings and businesses on the rest of the property.
Jenkins said timelines are tentative because a “lot of the timing is dependent on resources” and supply chain issues are slowing plans down. Still, he believes the Beacon will be ready for use by next spring.
The developer and pastor opened the floor to community questions, where they faced concerns about the Petco still open on the Kohl’s property. Jenkins said discussions aren’t finalized, but both parties are working on a short-term lease extension to keep the store open.
A Petco groomer told Jenkins store managers had announced the store would close in a matter of months and employees had already told customers the location was shutting down. Jenkins said he could not speak for the team at Petco, but they haven’t “kicked anybody out” of the property.
Jenkins also outlined how the Beacon will serve different parts of the community. Many residents raised concerns about a lack of space in Roswell for teenagers and children to hang out for free.
Jenkins said a portion of the property will be dedicated to young people with gaming rooms, hangout space and a tutoring company. He is also working with Centennial High School to make the Kohl’s site an overflow parking lot for high school students.
“I love this city, I even did something stupid a couple of years ago and ran for mayor,” Jenkins said. “Our hearts are here, and I promise you we’re going to do something special.”
**See original article on Appen Media by clicking here. **
By Delaney Tarr.