TARPON SPRINGS — Its move will only cover 2.4 miles, yet coming over the Pasco County line into Trinity will make a world of difference for the Chapel.
By early 2020, leaders hope, the community church will be completely up and running in its new home, in the Mitchell Crossings Plaza, a commercial center the church bought in its entirety for $5.8 million. It is at the corner of Mitchell Boulevard and Little Road.
“It was just a few more dollars on our mortgage to buy the whole thing,” said Mark Quattrochi, the Chapel’s lead pastor.
The Chapel, which is affiliated with the Association of Related Churches, will now redesign the vacant Sweetbay Supermarket in Mitchell Crossings. It was one of the few in the region that didn’t become a Winn Dixie when the Jacksonville-based supermarket chain’s parent company, Bi-Lo, bought Sweetbay, formerly known as Kash n’ Karry, in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Chapel will benefit from the 12 existing Mitchell Crossings, which will now be paying rent to the church.
“That money will help fuel our ministry,” Quattrochi said of his church, which he and his wife Trisha founded in 2010. They leased their current building, at 2795 Keystone Road, in the East Lake-Tarpon Springs area, for five years before purchasing it about two-and-a-half years ago.
But quickly the building could not accommodate a congregation that now averages 3,300 worshippers per week, spread out over one Saturday service and three Sunday services. Parking is the biggest problem, as the lot only has 310 spaces and 427 on average are needed for each service.
“We simply need more room,” Quattrochi said.
Even the restrooms aren’t adequate.
“If more than five women use them at once, the toilets will back up,” he said. “This is no longer an excellent experience — like going to a Bucs game in August. People are becoming uncomfortable.”
The new location will offer nearly 60,000 square feet of space and 671 parking slots. With a median age of 34, meaning many in the congregation are the parents of young kids, Quattrochi is putting an emphasis on installing amenities that cater to a younger audience. Beyond building a stage and alter area, a state-of-the-art multi-media system will be installed, and children areas will be constructed. Even a coffee shop at the building’s entrance is part of the plan.
His desire for an elaborate interior is why the transition will take so long, Quattrochi said.
“You only get one shot at this, so we want to take our time and do it right,” he said. “Every time you want to go back after the fact it just costs more money.”
The church did not need any type of formal fundraising effort, Quattrochi said, but rather just asked its members to do what they could.
“We said, ‘If this is your church, then this is our next step.’ And the people have stepped up,” he said. “We have no existing debt, other than some property debt, and we’ve just always been good with money. We have always stuck with the 80-percent rule where we save 10 percent and give back 10 percent to the community. It’s just that it has added up fast.”
Quattrochi said his church takes on 18 to 25 projects per quarter, making the most of 450 to 600 volunteers who support them. With the new revenue stream, “We can take our stewardship to an even greater level,” he said.
Regarding the change of locale, Quattrochi is not only confident he’ll attract new members put keep most of the existing ones.
“Studies show that as long as you stay within 5 miles, you shouldn’t lose much of your attendance base,” he said.