Daytona’s First Baptist Church being toppled

The downtown Daytona Beach First Baptist Church is starting to come down. Demolition was in high gear Friday as the site is prepared to become the future home of apartments, a grocery store, restaurants and retail.

DAYTONA BEACH — First Baptist Church is starting to look like a war zone casualty that’s been mercilessly shelled.

On the west side of the building that faces Ridgewood Avenue, the exterior walls have been ripped out by a huge excavator with a powerful grapple. On the ground below, mounds of rubble wait to be hauled off.

Inside the cavernous sanctuary, rows and rows of pews that have held the faithful for decades have been stripped out, and the mighty pipe organ has been dismantled and reduced to a pile of parts. Interior supports and walls are toppling, and the front doors facing Palmetto Avenue have been torn out.

Within a few weeks, the iconic downtown Daytona house of worship with a lofty bell tower will become a mountain of disjointed debris. And in a few months, the block between Ridgewood and Palmetto avenues will be cleared off and ready to become something other than the site of a church for the first time in 122 years.

“We’re anxious to see something get going,” said Scott Bullock, vice president of real estate for Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co., which has bought out most of the block dominated by the now empty First Baptist buildings.

The church buildings have been vacant since the congregation relocated in October to a new campus on Tomoka Farms Road.

Construction could start at the end of the year on a new high-density development on the block bordered by Ridgewood Avenue, International Speedway Boulevard, Palmetto Avenue and Bay Street.

Conceptual plans have shown a five-story luxury apartment building with 300 units on the corner of Bay Street and Palmetto Avenue. A multi-story parking garage, which could have at least 400 parking spaces, could stand at Ridgewood Avenue and Bay Street.

The design shows the garage and apartment building connected by a covered pedestrian overpass and street-level retail shops in both buildings.

Renderings show a grocery store and its parking lot on the corner of ISB and Palmetto. There could be a standalone building in the middle of the property used for either a restaurant or shop, and a restaurant could front Ridgewood between the existing Popeye’s fast-food eatery and Beck’s office building.

Consolidated is not buying the Popeye’s site, but the company is under contract to purchase the Beck’s office building, Bullock said this week. The Beck’s building will come down if the sale closes, he said.

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