**Check out this video update from Todd Wagner regarding Watermark’s campus expansion plans.**
As we have previously shared, we are in a season of expanding our facilities in Dallas and Fort Worth, in addition to adding a new campus in Plano. We are excited about all that God is doing in and through the Watermark body, and we are looking forward to this next season of ministry in the Metroplex.
Over the past few weeks, we have hosted Q&A sessions for those in the body interested in discussing more details about our campus expansion plans and the financial resources needed to move forward. We have now compiled the following FAQ’s for the body, detailing the questions asked and the answers provided.
Within this document, there are also time-sensitive details about the plans and possible next steps regarding the original property in Plano that we considered. Please continue to pray with and for us for the Lord’s wisdom and direction in how we take these next steps as well as how He may be leading you to participate in these opportunities. May we all continue to be faithful with the time and resources God has graciously given us, not forsaking our assembling together and encouraging one another in love and deeds for the purpose of making His name known.
Joyfully laboring with you,
It is great news that Watermark already has $5.5 million available to steward towards future facility needs in Dallas, Plano and Fort Worth. Where did those funds come from?
We continue to be thankful that the Lord has chosen to provide resources for our collective mission to be and make disciples through:
During this past fiscal year alone, the Lord has provided us with a $5.5 million through contributions made directly to the building fund as well as general contributions in excess of our actual expenses. The Elders believe the best use of these resources is to further invest in facilities that will increase our opportunity to shepherd, disciple and reach the increasing number of people the Lord is allowing Watermark to serve. These investments will radically increase our opportunity to serve and disciple people already involved as well as those we continue to come to know.
The utilization of surplus general fund contributions for capital needs has been Watermark’s standard practice in years past, as has been communicated to the body during the development and construction of the Dallas campus. When a ministry surplus has been present without any immediate capital need (as first happened after the 2012/2013 fiscal year, which is when we completed the current Dallas campus), the Elders directed surplus funds to encourage, sharpen and serve several of our trusted ministry partners, as well as to invest in the launch of the Fort Worth campus.
What is the highest priority, the lease and renovation of the tower next to the Dallas campus to meet mid-week demands, or the establishment of a Plano campus? In other words, if we do not have sufficient funds to do everything we are considering, how do we plan to use the limited resources available?
The nearest term need is the $9.5 million for the acquisition of the Plano campus, so that is the priority we intend to satisfy first. The addition of the Plano campus will allow us to further our ministry to and with our members who live north of us as well as create more opportunity on the Dallas campus by having hundreds of current members begin to use the northern campus. If we do not have sufficient funds to purchase the Plano campus by the time the contract is firm in late September, then we will re-evaluate and consider what God would have us do at that point.
Our current plan, God willing, is to purchase ($9.5 million) and renovate ($3-4 million) the Plano campus as well as lease and begin renovating floors 2 and 3 ($3 million) of the facility adjacent to the Dallas campus. Even with the move to Plano, the addition of the office tower east of the Dallas campus is important for our current mid-week ministries, and it provides significant parking relief. Over the next four years, we hope to renovate the rest of the facility adjacent to the Dallas campus ($7 million) and then purchase the facility ($11.5 million) in the fall of 2018. Because we continue to believe that debt should not be used to finance any of these plans, we are not currently considering any other funding options.
**Some have used terms such as “reach” and “relief” with respect to a new campus. (“Reach” means going out into a new area to reach new people, whereas “relief” redirects existing people from a crowded campus to a new campus.) Is Plano a “reach” or a “relief” campus? **
If we were to use those terms, Plano would be both a reach and a relief campus. Approximately 6,000 people completed the 4B spiritual assessment form in early 2014, and almost 1,500 of the respondents live north of Campbell Road. In light of this demographic information, we believe we will have hundreds of members transition from the Dallas campus to the Plano campus. Additionally, because the Plano location is 12 miles north of the Dallas campus, members living farther north will have the opportunity to be more intentional with neighbors and friends, reaching out to them for both weekend and mid-week discipleship opportunities.
If Plano is, at least to some extent, a “relief” campus, then why do we also need to lease the building adjacent to the Dallas campus?
Even though the new Plano campus will help bring “relief” to our Dallas campus, we still have additional facilities needs for mid-week discipleship opportunities in Dallas, primarily as it relates to mid-sized meeting room space (i.e., rooms that will accommodate 200 – 400 people). This constraint on mid-sized meeting room space has limited our ability to launch new ministries and our ability to meet demand for several existing ministries. Though we anticipate the Plano campus will “relieve” some attendance at Dallas, we still expect continued growth constraints in Dallas as more and more newcomers arrive. For context, our Sunday adult morning attendance has increased by nearly 1,000 people since last summer. This not only requires more seats on Sundays, but also more mid-week meeting space so ministries that serve, disciple and encourage these newcomers, can accommodate that growth as well.
As mentioned above, an additional key benefit to acquiring the adjacent Dallas office tower is that it will allow us to fully secure necessary parking requirements in perpetuity. (This benefit is neither “reach” nor “relief,” but rather to maintain compliance with certain code requirements in the event that our parking lease arrangement with the owner of the parking garages is ever compromised or lost.)
**If Plano is, in part, a “reach” campus, is the site we are pursuing the ideal location long term? Are there statistics on how far away an expansion campus should be from an existing campus? Does the proposed Plano campus, at 12 miles north of the Dallas campus, fit that template? **
Yes, the site of the Plano campus is ideally situated with relation to our existing location in Dallas. Our staff has researched this matter extensively through conversations and interviews with key leaders of several churches with multiple campuses and by closely examining a study on optimal distancing from our friends at Leadership Network. The general consensus is that a campus should be 10-20 miles away from the nearest alternative campus. Given this information, and combined with the fact that it is relatively close to US-75 to provide quick access from northern communities, the Plano campus is ideally situated to serve our current body and allow for the expansion of our missional opportunity to the greater Collin and Rockwall county area.
Should we be looking for a permanent facility for our Fort Worth family since we have been meeting there for a year? In other words, shouldn’t we be working to find a more suitable long-term solution for the people who are already worshiping in Fort Worth before we spend money on a Plano campus?
We are greatly encouraged by the way Watermark members in Fort Worth continue to invite friends and neighbors to be a part of our family in Fort Worth. From a percentage growth standpoint, our Fort Worth campus is growing even faster than our Dallas campus. In order to provide for our growing Fort Worth family, we have recently doubled the staff serving that part of our body and have leased another 4,000 square feet of office space in the shopping center immediately west of the current office location. The new office space will allow us to move existing staff offices out of the space being shared with our children’s ministry, which will immediately expand the capacity to disciple children on Sundays and adults throughout the week. With the ability to add a second service at our current location, there is still ample room for additional growth at the Ridglea for the foreseeable future. The real estate advisory team continues to explore permanent real estate opportunities in Fort Worth, taking into account growth expectations, geographic location of the growth, initial cost and scalability of facility options for unexpected future needs.
Todd suggested that one of the reasons we should pursue the new building in Plano is because it will “save us eight figures.” How is that possible? What process do we use to pursue facilities, and why is this the best location for Watermark? Watermark Dallas spent many years in numerous facilities before its body validated a location through its giving. In other words, is it good stewardship to spend $10-13 million for a campus that doesn’t yet exist?
The real estate advisory team has looked at several properties over the last nine months. From a strategy perspective, the team explored opportunities to lease existing facilities, purchase existing facilities and to purchase raw land to build new facilities. From a location perspective, the team considered Lake Highlands, Plano along Central Expressway and Plano along the North Dallas Tollway, which are three high-density pockets of Watermark members. One of the early possibilities was a smaller church at 1815 West 15th Street, about 4 miles south of the Plano campus on 6400 K Avenue. According to our architects and real estate advisory team, the 15th Street location would have cost $10-15 million more (due to necessary retrofit and renovation) than the location we are now pursuing. In addition, it would have taken at least two years or more to fully complete, and the location was not as convenient for our members who are currently driving from areas north of Plano.
Even as we were moving forward with great confidence and excitement regarding the original site on 15th Street, we prayed that the Lord would “save us from ourselves” and stop us from moving forward by showing us a better path, if there was one. We continue to be grateful that we soon became aware of an opportunity to instead purchase the new Plano site, located on K Avenue. We continue to humbly seek the Lord’s affirmation that we make this move as the body responds to the opportunity before us.
As such, we are asking for the body to pray with us for wisdom and to respond by giving towards this mission expansion as the Lord directs them. The Elders and other church leaders have already been stirred to lead out in this investment opportunity and will continue to give/invest as the Lord provides and leads. We ask that other members prayerfully consider these opportunities and follow the Lord’s leadership in the stewardship of His resources, taking full advantage of the community around them to help process how the Lord would have them respond. Additionally, the Elders and other staff leadership continue to be available to meet with any Watermark members who need more information or help in better understanding the details of these opportunities.
The Elders want to emphasize that we are not creating a new church, but rather adding an additional site to our existing church so that we may better serve the local body already located in Plano and farther north. As noted previously, approximately one-fourth of all 4B spiritual assessment participants this year live north of Campbell Road. We are simply adding a campus with shared leadership, teaching, core beliefs and mission that will be closer to those members. As the Lord affirms our plans to open in Plano, we intend to be one church with three campuses.
Has anyone approached the Plano building owner to negotiate a lease of that facility? Would Watermark consider leasing the facility until we validate the need and location instead of purchasing this facility now?
After many years of leasing the building to an industrial user and then to a church, the owner of the property made a strategic decision to sell the building in June. Within three days of listing the property, the seller received three written Letters of Intent. Therefore, leasing this particular facility was not an option.
We did consider whether leasing made more sense, but were unable to find a location that would accommodate a body of believers that could realistically exceed 1,000 people in a short period of time. As our body knows, we have a ministry philosophy that places an equal, if not greater, emphasis on mid-week discipleship and fellowship as compared to the Sunday experience. This includes many mid-week outreach, shepherding and pastoral care ministries that require usage of facilities throughout the week, not simply on Sunday mornings. Given the size, time and parking requirements, there are limited lease options available to fit our philosophy of ministry.
Has a decision already been made to purchase the Plano facility? What decisions still remain?
We have not committed to purchasing the proposed Plano campus located at 6400 K Avenue. Rather, we have signed a Purchase Agreement that includes many contingencies, including a contingency that we must raise sufficient funds to close. As mentioned earlier, the Elders do not believe we should make this opportunity work by using debt.
While the Elders feel this is where God is leading us, we have not received an “audible call from God” to purchase this facility. The Elders are praying for continued clarity and God’s direct hand in either allowing or disallowing the purchase process to continue. We ask the entire Watermark body to pray with us for God’s direction and protection. Additionally, we ask that each member pray as to whether, and how, God might have them participate individually with his or her time, talent and treasure. As was stated above, leadership is more than willing to meet with any communities of members with additional questions. To schedule a meeting, please contact us at email@example.com.
Does Watermark have an expansion strategy? Does Watermark feel called to start churches in other cities, states or countries?
No, Watermark does not have a strategy or plan to expand to more campuses, be it in Dallas or elsewhere. Our plan is the same as it was almost fifteen years ago – to be and make disciples in complete dependence on Christ. We want to grow as His people in faithfulness in every area of our lives and to make disciples who daily seek, ask, listen and live courageous lives open to anything the Lord and His Word may teach us. While Watermark may decide to add another campus in the future or even plant a separate local church, there are no specific plans or a master plan to do so at this time. Matthew 6:33-34, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8 and Colossians 1:28-29 are just some of the Scriptures that guide us in these considerations. Our “strategy” is to be faithful everyday and to listen to what He would have us do next.
Someone can give money to Watermark and designate “facilities” or “building fund” in the memo line, but can we specifically designate that any building fund be used for Dallas, Fort Worth or Plano?
No, there is not a separate designated facilities account for each campus. While we do have one designated account for those who want to give directly to the facilities expansion of Watermark, we remain committed to operations as one church with three campuses, executing one, unified mission with the same strategy and one budget.
It should be noted that some members have asked if it is okay to simply give to Watermark, generally, without noting “facilities” and allow the leaders to determine how to best direct the funds, be it to a facility or any of the several other ministry opportunities we regularly assess. The answer is “yes,” but we always want to communicate to everyone when there are opportunities before the body that require giving and provision beyond our annual, missional budget needs. Now is one such time.
Any money given to the Watermark General Fund will not be applied to facilities until the mission expenses of the current fiscal year are fully met. This means money given to our general fund would not be available to use for new facilities until after June 30, 2015.
**What is Watermark going to do with the other Plano property that it was pursuing before the property at 6400 K Avenue became available? **
As referenced above, Watermark had already entered into a contract with Highland Oaks Church of Christ (“HOCC”) to purchase its Plano property located at 1815 West 15th Street in Plano when we learned about the property on K Avenue being listed for sale. Pursuant to that contract with HOCC, Watermark was in the early stages of its due diligence and feasibility period for third-party reports and confirmation of favorable zoning permissions. It was important that we confirmed our ability to allow for eventual build-out of the campus to maximize use of the available land for the greatest strategic impact in that area. Although that contract enabled Watermark to back out during the feasibility period, the Elders resolved to honor the spirit of the commitment as purchaser.
Watermark has no desire to own property that it won’t utilize. Therefore, we informed HOCC that, although we were prepared to follow through on our commitment to purchase the property on 15th Street, we did not anticipate moving a Watermark campus to that location; rather, we were likely to quickly transfer the property to some other user, even a residential real estate developer, instead of a church. We offered to drop the contract so they could determine the ultimate disposition of that property. The leadership of HOCC considered the new information (namely, that Watermark Plano would NOT be located on the property), and soon after informed us that they preferred to proceed with the sale to Watermark, fully acknowledging that we would likely sell the property to another user. As such, our plan is to fulfill all obligations as purchaser under the existing contract with HOCC, which will result in a closing date this fall, likely prior to the closing for the property at 6400 K Avenue.
As we were contemplating options for eventual disposition of the HOCC property (in order to redirect those available resources towards the other initiatives detailed above), a member of our body, who has been involved with the real estate assessment process, presented an offer to purchase the HOCC property from Watermark after we closed, or perhaps even take assignment of the purchase agreement in our place and eliminate our need to expend those funds at all. This individual is an experienced, qualified real estate developer and has offered to purchase the HOCC property at a price that covers every expense related to our purchase of it.
For the sake of propriety, and so that we may be above reproach in all matters by operating with full disclosure, the Elders have resolved to make this information available to all members of our body. For obvious reasons, it is our desire to sell this property to anyone who is financially capable and can move quickly. If anyone else would like the chance to purchase the property from Watermark, please express your interest by immediately contacting our Director of Operations:
This is a very fluid, time-sensitive situation and a major reason an email is being sent to the body. In order to respond appropriately to the existing Letter of Interest, we ask that anyone interested submit a written Letter of Interest to Tom Sharpe no later than August 31, 2014. It is our desire to proceed to a contract with the existing interested party or another buyer who would take assignment of the contract with HOCC so that we can quickly redirect those funds towards the purchase and renovation of the new K Avenue location.
If there are questions or comments about the facilities expansion in Dallas or Plano, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If there are questions or comments about details of the ministry at the planned Plano campus, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
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