By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
EVERETT — The former National Guard Armory building in downtown Everett has come to the end of its first life, but its second one is about to begin.
The Mars Hill Church, with more than 13,000 members in four states and growing, has bought the building and hopes to start its interior makeover by the end of March.
If all goes as planned, the building could be packed with up to 800 people three times each Sunday as soon as next fall, said Ryan Williams, lead pastor for Mars Hill’s Everett congregation.
The white, 46,000-square foot building at the corner of Oakes Avenue and California Street, built in 1921, was used for 90 years to train part-time soldiers and to store munitions.
The Washington National Guard housed 20 employees there as recently as 2011. In September of that year, the Guard moved to the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Smokey Point.
The church bought the former building from the state for $1.275 million — its fair market value as listed in October.
The church estimates it will take about $725,000 to move in and $2.4 million to remodel the entire building, Williams said. The church has raised $126,000 so far, he said.
Mars Hill currently holds services at Everett Community College’s Fitness Center, drawing 650 to 700 to each Sunday service, Williams said. Two are held per day, at 9 and 11:15 a.m. An evening service will probably be added at the armory building, he said.
For parking, Mars Hill plans to lease the garage at the corner of California Street and Wetmore Avenue from Trinity Lutheran College, Williams said.
The non-denominational church began in Ballard and has congregations there and in many locations in King County, including in Bellevue and downtown Seattle, plus Everett, Williams said.
Outside Western Washington, there are Mars Hill churches in Portland, Ore., Orange County, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M. Outreach magazine, a Christian publication, has listed Mars Hill among the 100 fastest-growing churches in the country.
The Everett services draw people from all around the county, Williams said, including Monroe, Arlington and Lynnwood, as well as many from Everett area.
The church sees the huge former armory building as an opportunity to establish a headquarters in northern Western Washington.
“We want to bless Everett and be a blessing to our entire region,” Williams said.
The building is so large that it will take years to grow into it, he said.
“This building could house a congregation of 10,000 people,” Williams said.
The former armory is both cavernous and labyrinthine. Its expansive gymnasium on the main floor boasts latticed beam work on the ceiling and original brick walls, painted white.
The gym will be transformed into an 800-seat auditorium.
“We want to leave the exposed beams, we want to leave it as raw as possible,” Williams said.
Smaller rooms on the main floor will be transformed into an interactive children’s area with space for 120 kids. A large banquet-type room on the building’s corner facing the intersection will be used for community events and as a utility room.
A mezzanine floor includes a couple of rooms looking out over the gym. This will likely be used for audio-visual equipment and a “green” room for band members, Williams said.
The top floor has several rooms that can be used for offices.
Plans for the many rooms in the basement are uncertain, Williams said. Some of the rooms might be opened up to community groups for storage or other uses, he said.
The basement contains several walk-in vaults, complete with thick metal doors, that were used to store munitions. Those doors will probably be sold, he said.
Williams, 27, is a native of Adelaide, Australia. He became lead pastor for the Everett congregation in November.
He and his wife, Natasha — a Snohomish native and Cascade High School grad — have moved to Everett and intend to settle here and have children, he said.
“I like the relaxed, sort of working-class feel,” Williams said. “It’s the best of everything, you’ve got the water, you’ve got the mountains just across (U.S.) 2 and its an old town with a lot of history. It’s just a good place to be.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.