Paradise Missionary Baptist Church Not Selling Land

Multiple offers don’t budge church’s resolve to locate a developer and partner on project.

by PJ Griekspoor

Key Points

  • Paradise Missionary Baptist Church seeks developer to build senior housing
  • Church has rejected offers to buy land, preferring to seek partner instead
  • Plan includes new church building and community centered housing project

Pastor David Chiles and Associate Minister Dexter Sutton at Paradise Missionary Baptist Church have had a front-row seat to the explosive building spree on Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus.

Their church sits in the middle of a large slice of land from Oliver to Belmont St. on 17th Street, directly across the street from the campus.

The offers keep coming to buy their land, offers that Chiles says he has simply thrown into the trash.

He has a bigger vision, one that helps the community and helps the church.

They’ve been courted by developers, including one who offered to build Paradise a new church building in another location.

Instead of selling the land and turning it over to the new property owner to do what they like with it, they’re looking for a developer who will partner with them to build senior citizen housing on their empty acres.

While the offers to buy the land are plentiful, so far they’ve only received one offer to partner with the church.

Four years ago, they were working with an Arizona developer on a shared development concept, but the developer died of COVID during the pandemic, leaving the church back where it started.

Wichita developer Bernard Knowles introduced Chiles to that developer. He said he’d like to help the church, but has projects of his own that keep him busy.

“I knew the Arizona developer and thought he’d be able to help. And they were making progress toward that before he got sick,” Chiles said.

He said that plan called for building a new church building on the east end of the property close to Oliver Street and using the remainder of the property for the housing, which he described as “on the order of Larksfield Place.”

With an aging congregation, Chiles says he sees how the community can benefit from a quality, community-centered senior housing project.

It’s an approach that allows the church and the community to invest in itself. 

With the church and the land debt free, the congregation could just sell and walk away with a big check, but their debt-free position allows them the freedom to wait and shop for the right opportunity.

“You can sell property and get a one-time income,” Chiles said. “If we develop the land, we get a revenue stream for generations to come.”

In more simplistic terms Pastor Sutton said, “Once you give up the cow, you can’t get no more milk.”

Instead of the developers reaping all of the long-term revenue, Pastor Chiles says the Paradise congregation will be holding out for the milk.

P.J. Griekspoor is a semi-retired veteran journalist with 55 years experience in writing and editing in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wichita.  She spent 18 years at the Wichita Eagle as an editor, designer and reporter covering everything from weather to military affairs to agriculture before becoming editor of Kansas Farmer from 2008 to 2021. She is passionate about politics, conservation, history, gardening and her kids and grandkids.  She has an office wall full of national writing awards, is a past president of the North American Agricultural Journalists and is an American Agricultural Editors’ Association master writer. At the community voice, she is a general assignment reporter focusing on Wichita news.