Boys & Girls Club offers to buy St. James Church

LACONIA — The Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region has made a formal offer to purchase the building and grounds of St. James Episcopal Church at 876 North Main Street for $700,000.
The Vestry, or local governing body of the church, announced the offer to parishioners at the service on Sunday morning and Pastor Tobias Nyatsambo mentioned it in his weekly newsletter. The Vestry, led by Senior Warden Jeff Pearson, met last night to weigh the offer.
The Daily Sun spoke with several members of the parish who attended Sunday's service but none were willing to discuss the situation on the record.
In the newsletter, Pastor Nyatsambo noted the announcement of the purchase offer was followed "by an open discussion . . . and I am encouraged by people recognizing that the time may be up for us to move away from the buildings. Most people agree the Vestry should accept the offer."
Built in 1964, the church, a 9,591-square-foot building, sits on 1.3-acre lot alongside a 3,000-square-foot bungalow of one-and-a-half stories. The entire property has an assessed value of $1,139,500, according to city tax records.
Founded as a teen center in 1999, the Boys & Girls Club has been looking for a permanent home for some time. Currently housed in the old Federal Building downtown — which is now owned and largely occupied by Lakes Region Community Services, the club has already found temporary shelter in four different locations. In 2011, the club sought to acquire the building on Fair Street that houses The Citizen newspaper, but failed to close the transaction.
Last October, club officials approached City Council about the prospect of purchasing city-owned property on Davis Place, across the street from the Normandin Square Apartments, in order to build a 14,000-square-foot permanent home on a bank of the Winnipesaukee River.
Cheryl Avery, executive director of the club, told City Council that the Davis Place location was well suited for the club because it was close to the high school and within walking distance of the middle school.
Several weeks ago, Avery told members of the Laconia Rotary Club that her organization had since put the acquisition of the Davis Place land on a back burner while it explored the possibility of purchasing an existing building. City officials contacted by The Daily Sun were obviously aware of the fact that the club was actively pursuing another option but declined to say what building the club had its eye on.
Avery has been unavailable for comment in recent weeks.
In addition to being the home of an Episcopal Parish, the North Main Street campus also hosts the St. James Nursery School and the Hands Across The Table free community dinners on Tuesday evenings.
(Ed Engler contributed to this report.)