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Neighbors pleased about fate of former Calvary Baptist Baptist church

Published On: Nov 20 2013 09:06:32 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 21 2013 06:05:40 AM CST

Neighbors pleased about fate of former Baptist church

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

The church building on Dewberry Street in Bethlehem was home to Calvary Baptist Church for over 30 years.

However, when the congregation moved to Easton in 2011, the building's future was up in the air, especially after developer Abe Atiyeh showed his interest and offered $2.2 million to turn the church into a drug and alcohol rehab center; that's something neighbors weren't fond of.

“This isn't the place for it. This is a neighborhood. There's families across the street, it's family oriented. This may not be the place for it,” said neighbor Don Pfeifle.

After being denied by the zoning board, Atiyeh was left out and the doors opened for another congregation to step in: Templo El Refugio, a bilingual church that's predominantly Hispanic.

“We were not at all disappointed, I don't think, when that didn't go through because we were continuing to pray that somebody would come along and buy it. And when the Temple of Refuge wanted it, we were just so thrilled,” said Pastor Larry Burd of Calvary Baptist Church.

They were so thrilled on keeping the building a church, Calvary sold the building for $1.5 million, less than half of the original asking price.

“The asking price was $3.2 million...We were elated because it's something that we can afford, something we can work with and something we can expand on,” said Executive Pastor Steven Lozada of Templo El Refugio.

“We felt that we would rather have it be used for a church than some other facility so even though we could have gotten more money for it, we're very delighted” said Pastor Burd.

In a phone conversation, Atiyeh said even though he's disappointed he wasn't able to acquire the building, he said it still would've taken an additional $2 million to $3 million to convert it into a treatment center and said he's happy it was able to stay a church.