Parker church moving into vacant dealership

Crossroads buys former Burt Jeep Chrysler Dodge

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A former car dealership that has sat vacant for three years has a new tenant that plans to make good use of the space.

Crossroads Community Church closed a deal Feb. 29 to take over the old Burt dealership on the northeast corner of Lincoln Avenue and Twenty Mile Road. The Jeep Chrysler Dodge showroom closed in early 2009, as did a Burt dealership that remains empty at South Parker Road and Lincoln Avenue.

Crossroads Community Church, which has been in Parker since 1959 under several different names, is the latest occupant-participant in the revitalization of a commercial district that has seen its share of struggles since the economy went south.

Albertsons, Applebee’s, Black-Eyed Pea, Pier One Imports and Circuit City were among the businesses that closed within a two-year period, along with the automotive outlets. Target relocated to a shopping district across town, leaving the area with Lowe’s as its lone anchor store.

Sprouts Farmers Market opened in the former Albertsons space in October 2008, and Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply moved into the old Target in late 2011. Parker Payless Liquors relocated to the former Pier One space a year earlier.

Now, Crossroads is talking about its two-phase plan for revamping the vacant dealership, including adding an HVAC system, installing carpeting and applying some fresh coats of paint.

John Snyder, senior pastor at Crossroads, said the church has outgrown its building just north of O’Brien Park on South Parker Road. More than 1,100 members pass through its doors every weekend, and the church’s relocation team has been searching for a new building that can accommodate the swelling congregation.

“We added Saturday services two years ago this April,” he said. “We started saying three years ago that we have to move into a larger campus.”

Crossroads put in a formal offer in September and spent $4.5 million to secure the new space, which was appraised as a dealership at $13 million just a few years ago.

When Snyder arrived more than eight years ago, the church had dwindled to 60-70 members who were considering selling the existing building. After a year and a half on the market, a handful of local churches are expressing interest in purchasing it.

The renovation project on the dealership is expected to take about three months, and Snyder said he hopes for the first services to occur July 7-8. The former showroom will be used as a lobby and services will take place in what used to be the service bay. It can now seat about 500 people, but a plan to remove a wall as part of the second phase of the remodel will open it to approximately 1,000-1,100 people, Snyder said.

Controversy arose in the months after it was announced that the Burt dealerships would be closed.

L.G. Chavez, chief executive officer of the successful Burt enterprise, tried in vain to determine what factors were considered during the decision to close the Parker dealerships, which had been exceeding sales performance expectations.

Bart Sayyah, director of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce’s economic development group, even wrote a letter to Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Mike Coffman at the time, seeking help in getting a better explanation.

“The termination of dealership agreements went out without any transparency or logic,” Sayyah said.

Burt Enterprises had originally announced the construction of an entire auto plaza that was going to stretch west toward the Parker Recreation Center, but a worldwide dip in vehicle sales and manufacturing derailed those plans.