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Former First Christian Church could be demolished in the coming weeks, a state official says

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JACKSON, Mississippi (WLBT) – A former church in downtown Jackson that was approved for demolition last month could be torn down within weeks.

This is according to Glenn Kornbrek, deputy director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration.

“We are currently pricing. We may start doing that in the next week or two,” he said.

In April, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History granted the DFA permission to demolish the former First Christian Church at the corner of High and North State Streets.

The historic site, which has been vacant for more than 20 years, is to make way for parking spaces for two nearby government buildings.

“There will be some asbestos removal. The general demolition of the building and the structure, I'm not sure how long that will take,” Kornbrek said. “I think it will probably take a couple of weeks.”

Kornbrek said it was unclear what impact the demolition would have on traffic.

He said the contractor is responsible for working with the city of Jackson to obtain all permits and resolve any potential disruptions.

Demolition is expected to cost about $2 million, a fraction of the $25 million to $30 million that architects estimate would be needed to gut and renovate the facility.

“Everything inside the building is at risk. The plaster is beyond repair, the doors are beyond repair,” he said. “Basically, we have an outer shell that [we’d] have to build a brand new building in it. That's not historically honest.”

DFA recently purchased the former church for about $600,000 to create additional parking for state employees.

Nearby, the state is currently renovating facilities at 620 and 660 North State Street. 620 Street currently houses the state's gaming commission, while 660 Street will house the Office of Judicial Performance and offices of the Mississippi Secretary of State.

“The State Department will continue to have its main office in the Ladner Building, but because it is a fairly small building, not all of its activities will be housed there,” Kornbrek explained.

As for the former church, it was most recently owned by the Fifth Avenue Missionary Baptist Church of Laurel. The group wanted to build a homeless shelter there, but those plans never came to fruition. The building was owned by the First Baptist Church of Jackson from 2002 to 2017.

Instead, the former neo-Gothic building is falling into disrepair, the roof has largely collapsed and many of the stained glass windows are broken. Homeless people now live in the complex, which is a concern for the state authorities.

“Ten years ago we could have found a way to convert it. I don't want to say it would have been cheap, but it was still salvageable,” he said. “Not having a roof doesn't help.”

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