(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Jim Henderson)
An iconic New York City landmark known for hosting music and sporting events looks to be on its way to becoming the new home of Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar's Manhattan congregation.
The Paradise Theater, which opened in 1929 at 184th Street and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx borough of NYC, was recently acquired by Dollar's World Changers Church of New York, according to the New York Daily News, citing the Riverdale Review. The theater has been described as a "baroque-style masterpiece" by The New York Times.
World Changers Church of New York (WCC-NY) was founded by Dollar and wife Taffi Dollar as a non-denominational church in 2004. Its 6,000 worshippers meet on Wednesdays and Saturdays at various locations in New York City.
It was reported earlier this year that WCC-NY was looking for a location to call home. Dollar had previously attempted in 2011 to purchase the 575,000-square-foot Kingsbridge Armory, also in the Bronx, but that proposal never got off the ground.
There was also speculation earlier this year about whether the Dollars were planning to shutter the New York City church when it was revealed in March that the couple had sold their Manhattan condominium. However, the recent signing of the Paradise property proves otherwise.
The terms of the lease agreement for Paradise Theater, finalized Oct. 20, were not known. Gerald Lieblich, who purchased the property in 2003 for $4.5 million, thinks World Changers Church and the Paradise Theater make an excellent fit.
"This is the highest and best use for the theater," Ruth Furst, a real estate broker who oversaw the deal for Lieblich, told the Daily News.
A message left with WCC-NY Tuesday morning was not returned by press time.
The five-story NYC landmark, designed by architect John Eberson and built in 1929, is 45,000 square feet and has been the setting for everything from boxing matches to hip-hop concerts. A video tour of the facility reveals its opulent architecture and lush interior.
A fire in early November reportedly caused smoke damage to building, and it was unclear how the damage might affect World Changers' lease agreement.
Dollar, whose main congregation is located in Atlanta's College Park suburb, is considered controversial by some for teaching a prosperity gospel that proposes that God blesses believers in their finances and health based on their faith and financial giving.
While WCC-NY's website describes its founding minster's prosperity teachings as "ground-breaking revelation," it also notes that he "teaches on everything from marriage and family to prayer, physical fitness, character development and discipline." The website also notes on its FAQ page that "although many of our members are wealthy, our doors are open to anyone, regardless of their economic status."
The World Changers International Church campus in Georgia was the site of a deadly shooting in October, in which a former employee at the church gunned down another congregant during a Bible study session. Dollar called both the victim and assailant "precious brothers" and laid blame for the tragedy at the devil's door.
World Changers was established in 1981, and World Changers Ministries' first service was held in 1986 in a school cafeteria.