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New place, same faith

After 84 years in the same building, East End Baptist Church will soon begin construction of a new location for its services.

The church, which currently worships on East Washington Street, gained approval of the conditional use permit for its land on Portsmouth Boulevard this week. The 17.5-acre site at 1056 Portsmouth Blvd. will be the new home of its sanctuary, offices and facilities for its weekday activities.

The move was necessary for a number of reasons, senior pastor Mark Croston said.

“In terms of our weekday activity space, we’re really maxed out in terms of the space we have available to us,” Croston said.

The church’s child development center currently serves 26 full-time day students and about 30 before- and after-school students. In addition, about 60 students take voice and instrument lessons at the Jubal Arts Center for Music Instruction, founded in the late 1990s when there was a void in the community for private music instruction, Croston said.

“We started that about 11 years ago because, at the time, there was no other offering for people who wanted to learn how to play piano, strings. We were trying to meet a need.”

The church also sponsors Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and has choirs and praise dance teams.

“There’s something going on every day,” he said.

An additional benefit of the new facility is that all activity spaces will be in one building, Croston said. Currently, the child development center is in a building across East Washington Street from the main building. Boy and Girl Scouts meet in a house across Mulberry Street.

“This building is now about 80 years old,” Croston said. “It will be easier for us to expand in a more modern facility.”

The church began the search for a new location in 2001 and purchased the Portsmouth Boulevard property several years later.

“We’ve not been in a rush because we have a place to go,” he said.

The new location also will give the church more visibility and accessibility, Croston said.

The church is working on getting cut-through access to the Food Lion shopping center parking lot so the church members can turn at the stoplight. In the meantime, turn lanes will be constructed on Portsmouth Boulevard for safe access. The church may be required by the city’s traffic engineer to provide traffic control on Sundays.

“We’ve brought in the right experts to help us as we’re making these steps in the process,” Croston said.