When completed, Gilbert’s largest church complex will be as big as at least four Wal-Mart Supercenters.
“I can’t wait,” said neighbor Bruce Biggs, who has lived near the site for two-and-half years. “That’s 150 acres that’s not going to have a Wal-Mart or a Target or that sort of thing. It will keep our neighborhood quieter.”
Eventually, leaders of the Central Christian Church of the East Valley expect their south campus to completely fill a 150-acre site at Germann and Lindsay roads in south Gilbert.
Even now, with only the first of five planned phases completed, it’s the largest church in Gilbert — by a large margin.
For comparison, Gateway Fellowship South Baptist Church, one of Gilbert’s largest churches, has about 36,000 square feet of floor space.
Phase one of Central Christian’s new Gilbert facility alone dwarfs that at nearly 100,000 square feet. And when built out, the entire complex will have 1 million square feet of floor space and will have cost at least $100 million.
“We firmly believe that this is God’s will for us,” said Jason Hamrock, the church’s communications director. “There’s no way that we are smart enough, bright enough to do this on our own.”
The church has spent at least $22 million on phase one, not counting the $11 million spent to buy the land in 2001. Like every undeveloped parcel near Loop 202’s relatively new Santan Freeway, the land’s value increased drastically well before construction began. For example, a similar large site across the street from the church is now on sale for about $55 million, Hamrock said.
“We were getting all sorts of calls from investors,” he said. “But we’re not interested.”
The facility doesn’t look like a church. In fact, apart from the iconic cross ly- ing on its side at the southeast corner of Germann and Lindsay roads, the church and surrounding buildings look more like a large high school or small community college than anything else.
Or to some passers-by, it looks like many other things.
“We’ve been getting a lot of ‘Hey, when does the theater open’ or ‘When does the water park open,’” Hamrock said. “It doesn’t look like a church, and that’s intentional.”
As part of its grand opening, the church is planning a massive community fair Saturday that will include a petting zoo, train rides, jugglers, professional skateboarders, monster trucks, fireworks, free food, massages and manicures.
The opening-day celebration, along with the church’s overall presence, is part of a calculated marketing strategy aimed at introducing the church to Gilbert and making residents feel welcome.
“We only get to do it once,” Hamrock said. “We wanted to let this be a community event, not necessarily a church event.”
Church members have been distributing fliers in nearby neighborhoods and shopping centers for weeks to advertise the event.
“Oh, we’ll check it out,” Biggs said.
Church community fair
What: Central Christian Church of the East Valley community fair
Where: 965 E. Germann Road (southeast corner of Lindsay and Germann roads) Gilbert
When: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday