Church buys property adjacent to historic DeSoto Theatre

The former White Rabbit building on the corner of East 6th St. and Broad St. (Daniel Varnado RN-T.com)

The former White Rabbit building at 538 Broad St. is now owned by Seven Hills Fellowship Church.

The church closed on the building Friday and has major renovation plans for the structure but will continue to hold Sunday church services in the historic DeSoto Theater next door.

Mike Schuttinga, a spokesman for the church, said Seven Hills Fellowship has been looking for a place to expand for well over a year. Then when the White Rabbit building became available this fall, it was the perfect fit.

“We are going to use it to set up nurseries, Sunday school classes, a fellowship hall and a kitchen,” Schuttinga said. “We are going to open it up to the DeSoto Theater so there will be hallways both downstairs and upstairs between both buildings.”

The second floor of the new building will be available for office leasing. There are already some tenants on the rear section of the second floor.

Currently, the church holds Sunday school in an upstairs meeting room in the DeSoto and its nursery is located in the first floor gallery off the entrance foyer to the theater.

“We wanted to stay downtown,” Schuttinga said. He said the church is heavily invested in much of the renovation work that has already been completed at the theater.

“We care about the historical significance of the DeSoto, and that’s part of the reason that we like being there and that’s part of the reason why we like buying a building that’s right next door to it and we can attach to it,” Schuttinga said.

The church expects to spend close to $250,000 to make renovations to the White Rabbit building on top of the $530,000 purchase price. Church leaders are working with the Downtown Development Authority to get low-interest loans for the acquisition and renovation, including a new Green Communities grant.

Rome attorney Brian Bojo, a member of the church, said he anticipates it will take approximately six months to complete the renovations.

Seven Hills Fellowship Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Churches of America.

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