Thursday, however, a new chapter began for the land as the Spirit of Faith church officially opened its doors.
Kenneth Claytor, senior pastor of Spirit of Faith, said he hopes to turn what was considered a negative area into something positive.
“At one time, this property that we sit in today was used as a place that divided the city,” he said. “Controversial things were taking place here, and there was a level of paranoia and fear. However, I feel that our God-given assignment is to take that which was a negative and now make it something that’s positive for our city.”
Claytor said even though he originally didn’t plan to purchase the property, he felt that God had called him to use the area to promote the church’s platform and help the community find peace.
“We want to turn something that was confusion into peace, and turn something that was considered by some hateful into love,” he said.
In July, Spirit of Faith bought the property for about $1.2 million.
Renovations to the building are only about 60 percent finished, said Claytor.
Future plans for the property include the addition of another ministry facility, an orphanage and education centers.
Gainesville Chief of Police Tony Jones called the opening a “joyous occasion.”
He said the Gainesville police force stands firmly behind the new church.
“My relationships with this building in the past has not been pleasant … because what went on on these particular grounds not only impacted Gainesville and the State of Florida but this entire world,” Jones said. “Today I see hope, and the Gainesville Police Department stands with you for anything you need.”
Mayor Ed Braddy attended the opening and participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Braddy, who once lived in a house neighboring the property, said the new occupant’s mission to unite diverse groups of people should bring both comfort and relief to residents.
“As diverse as we are, we all have this yearning for meaning and an innate desire for purpose,” he said. “More urgently than ever, we need the great institutions of faith to provide the leadership and provide the venue to heal spiritual wounds.”
A version of this story ran on page 3 on 9/13/2013 under the headline "Spirit of Faith opens, replaces Dove World Outreach Center"
Spirit of Faith Pastor Kenneth Claytor speaks at the Spirit of Faith Dream Center on Thursday. The church raised $300,000 to buy the site formerly owned by the Rev. Terry Jones.