Hope City Church aiming for west Houston silos property as new home

A four-year-old Houston church called Hope City is under contract to buy a 17-acre industrial
property in west Houston, where it wants to transform a collection of warehouses and empty
grain silos into a flagship worship center from which its Sunday sermons would be broadcast to
locations across the city and beyond.

Plans for the property’s redevelopment include repurposing some of the existing warehouses
and developing an auditorium that would seat as many as 2,500 congregants. There would be
indoor and outdoor spaces for conferences and informal gatherings, and areas for children’s and
youth group gatherings. In an artist rendering of the proposed project, the letters of the church’s
name are displayed up high on each silo, a beacon to the hundreds of thousands of cars that
travel the adjacent freeways each day.

For its first permanent home, Hope City is aiming high.

The nondenominational church, which currently operates out of four “portable campuses,” has
grown exponentially since its founding by husband-and-wife pastors Jeremy and Jennifer Foster
in early 2015. Across its four locations, the church says attendance is as high as 11,000 on
weekends when Pastor Jeremy preaches multiple sermons.

A new home would give Hope City a platform to expand far beyond Houston, potentially
launching it into the top tier of multisite megachurches such as Church of the Highlands in
Birmingham, Ala. and Elevation Church out of Charlotte, N.C.

Hope City anticipates closing on the purchase in June. The church is trying to raise $8 million to
leverage 􀁸nancing for the $19.3 million acquisition of the site, which is off Westview and
Lumpkin in the northeast quadrant of Interstate 10 and Beltway 8. It has already put a “good faith
investment” of at least $250,000 in the property.

“We believe that God has called us to be a part of this,” Foster said during a Feb. 3 sermon,
imploring his congregants to donate to the building project.

“I want everybody to have an opportunity to get skin in the game,” he said. “I want to give you an
opportunity to get in on the miracle of what God is doing.”

Chris Willard, director of generosity initiatives for Leadership Network, a church-growth
organization based in Dallas, said a church that has 11,000 people attending on a regular basis
has a large base to appeal to.

In situations like Hope City’s, church leaders will typically seek donations from not just wealthy
members but the larger congregation.

“They’ll ask people to prayerfully consider giving what they can give,” Willard said. “It’s a pretty
common experience for a large growing church.”

Costly endeavor

Once acquired, improvements and renovations to the west Houston complex could cost another
$20 million, said Duncan Dodds, a senior adviser to Foster and head of a church consulting firm
called Big Vision Advisors. Dodds, who attends Hope City, was executive director at Joel Osteen’s
Lakewood Church and was involved in the redevelopment of the former Compaq Center on the
Southwest Freeway. He also worked with Second Baptist Church when it was building its campus
on Woodway.

Dodds said the church is in the process of interviewing architects and general contractors. The
industrial nature of the property would be well suited for the church’s congregation, he said,
which is largely made up of millennials and young families. If all goes as planned, the new
location could open by early 2022.

The property, which Harris County records show has an assessed value of $9.7 million, is
currently being used for RV and boat storage. John Hunt, managing general partner of Town &
Country Partners, which owns the site, confirmed that it is under contract to Hope City but
declined to provide further details.

The church project would bring another significant redevelopment to the north side of I-10.

With the south side of the freeway mostly spoken for, new investment is growing to the north,
said Tripp Rich, vice president of Dosch Marshall Real Estate.

He notes a new coworking development aimed at startups called The Cannon being developed
on Brittmore north of Westview. Townhome developments are going up around the area and
new apartments are expected to come next.

“Given the access to the Beltway and I-10 and new jobs coming into Energy Corridor,” Rich said,
“that’s where the focus of new development is.”

Expanded presence

Hope City broadcasts and streams its services from Houston Christian High School, just north of
the silos property, which seats around 1,000 people. Satellite campuses are in middle or high
schools in Katy, Cypress and Spring Branch. The church is planning one or two more this year,
representing an investment of $650,000 each according to a financial report on its website.

Other costs are outlined, including an estimated $500,000 upgrade to its broadcast and
equipment infrastructure.

Hope City describes and illustrates some of its initial ideas for the west Houston property, which
it refers to as “The Silos Project,” in a video and 12-page online brochure.

“This location will allow us to build a state-of-the-art worship facility that will function as our
broadcast campus,” the brochure reads. “This will enable us to launch more campuses, serve as a
model for future campus launches, and help us effectively reach millions of people worldwide via
technology.”

The multisite approach allows families to stay in their communities for church services, Dodds
said. And a younger generation of church-goers prefers smaller, more intimate environments.

The church also appeals to young people in part by its vast array of weekly social groups for
those in different stages of their lives and with varied interests. The groups meet in in different
parts of town and combine bible study with such topics as Japanese animation and sports or
activities like quilting or jogging.

Aside from its more modern take on ministry, another reason for the church’s strong growth is
Foster’s charismatic style and ability to connect with his his congregation, Dodds said. Foster, a
pastor’s son from West Monroe, La., was a pastor at Grace Church in Humble until about five
years ago.

“He’s a great leader and a great pastor,” Dodds said. “His preaching style is both entertaining and
has depth to it at the same time.”

Feb. 22, 2019

Houston Chronicle

Nancy Sarnoff 

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