Planning board approves move of Grace Capital Church into large space in downtown parking garage building

  • Published in Local News

LACONIA  — The Planning Board last night approved the proposal by the Grace Capital Church to convert the 22,000-square foot building attached to the municipal parking garage at 523-571 Main Street to a church, complete with an auditorium, classrooms and office space. 

The space, which has been vacant for the past six years, is owned Downtown Crossing LLC, whose principals, Paul and Dan Disangro, were awarded the property in a settlement reached with Steven Borghi ...

LACONIA  — The Planning Board last night approved the proposal by the Grace Capital Church to convert the 22,000-square foot building attached to the municipal parking garage at 523-571 Main Street to a church, complete with an auditorium, classrooms and office space. 

The space, which has been vacant for the past six years, is owned Downtown Crossing LLC, whose principals, Paul and Dan Disangro, were awarded the property in a settlement reached with Steven Borghi of Alton in 2009. The Disangros were partners of Borghi when his plans to open a Work Out World franchise foundered under heavy debt, along with charges of misappropriation of funds and deceptive trade practices.

In August 2011, Andrea Wilson announced plans to open a children's museum in the space, which she subsequently abandoned. The church has leased the space.

The Grace Capital Church was founded in 1996 by Peter Bonanno and, after meeting in private homes and school rooms, moved to a building in Pembroke in 2005 and soon affiliated with the Foursquare church headquartered in Los Angeles. The congregation grew rapidly, with about 1,000 worshippers attending two services on Sundays, many of them from the Lakes Region. In October, 2010, the church opened in the Lakes Region, holding its services at the Laconia Middle School and maintaining an office on Canal Street. 

Mark Warren, the pastor of the local church, said that he expects his congregation, which currently numbers about 250, to swell to between 375 and 400. He told the Planning Board that while Bible classes and youth groups would meet on weekdays, when the office would be open, the most intensive use of the space would be confined to Sundays. There will be no cooking facilities in the building and no alterations to its exterior facades. Signage, he said, remains to be designed, but will comply the zoning ordinance.

Warren Clement, who owned and operated the Sundial Shop for 37 years, said that "downtown needs three things — footsteps, light and activity — and the church brings all three. Noting the years the building has been empty, he said "this is a much better use and a good use."

Bob Sawyer, whose jewelry store is across the street, said that the church has rented office space from him on Canal Street and remarked that while he was losing "a stellar tenant" he welcomed a new neighbor downtown.

In approving the proposal, the board granted the church the maximum allowable reduction in impact fees of 80-percent. Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that the likely demands of the church for municipal services would be slight and limited to the police and fire departments.