Share story

Ballard-based Mars Hill Church wants to move the center of its operations to a new site in its largest and fastest-growing location: Bellevue.

After months of searching, church officials say they’ve found only one building close to downtown Bellevue large enough to seat 3,000 worshipers and accommodate church offices and a future Bible College.

There’s just one glitch in the plan to buy the former International Paper warehouse: Sound Transit already has bought the 10-1/2 acres as a possible location for a future maintenance and storage yard light-rail cars that will carry passengers from Redmond to Seattle and Lynnwood.

Now Mars Hill is asking its thousands of worshipers to ask Sound Transit officials to choose one of two other sites, in Bellevue and Lynnwood, that also are under study for the maintenance facility.

The  property lies north of Northeast Bel-Red Road between 120th Avenue Northeast and the Sound Transit-owned Eastside Rail Corridor formerly owned by BNSF Railway.

Sound Transit closed its $23 million purchase of the property Sept. 3. The transit agency’s governing board authorized the purchase last year because the land was on the market and the board didn’t want to risk paying a higher price later if the land was bought by a developer or speculator in a part of the city zoned for high-density mixed-use development, agency spokesman Geoff Patrick said.

“We just want to tell our story and hopefully work closer to help Sound Transit to choose one of the other properties,” Mars Hill spokesman Justin Dean said this morning. “We believe that this property is what God has intended for us, and we’re going to pursue that and other options presented or we’re forced to move on.”

Since Mars Hill opened a new church in the former Danz movie theater in downtown Bellevue two years ago, the location has become the largest of the church’s 15 locations,  with about 2,500 people attending one of four Sunday services, Dean said.