Lakewood Church Land Deal Put on Hold

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Each week, tens of thousands of people attend worship services at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

Church members lease their building from the city, and they had planned to purchase it, but that deal is being put on hold.

Like many cities across the country, Houston is hurting for cash.

A deal is on the table for the city to sell prime real estate in the form of Lakewood Church's building to the church itself.

That may seem like a win-win situation, but the mayor's office first needs to sell the idea to council members who want more information.

"I think we need to ask tough questions, at the beginning and not at the end. I think that is probably one reason why we are in the predicament that we are in," Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones said.

Another council member wants to know how much the Houston School District received for selling its headquarters near Lakewood Church back in 2006.

It's now a shopping center.

"I just want it all laid out so I can see it. I'm the kind that wants to see what they paid us before, what they paid us now, what's the total over time," Houston City Council member Melissa Noriega said.

The Houston School District says it got $38 million for the 24 acre property. That's about $36 per square foot, and is still considered a deal.

The property adjacent to Lakewood Church is valued at $50 per square foot.

Lakewood Church already pre-paid its 30-year lease six years ago.

The city isn't getting any money out of the property, so city leaders proposed the sale.

Lakewood Church would pay $7.5 million for seven acres of land. That's roughly $25 a square foot.

Still, in spite of the lower amount, council member Sue Lovell says the city shouldn't walk away.

"So actually, this is a better deal for us, to go ahead and get the money now when we need it, then just sit here for the next 22 years and not receive one dime on anything that has to do with this property," Lovell said.

The church says it's doing the city a service by leasing, renovating, and now buying the property.

"Had it not been for Lakewood's investment and the development of the Compaq Center, today would be an empty building that would be sitting in the possession of creditors," Lakewood Church member Bo Liof said.

That building seats on average about 43,000 people attending worship services on any given weekend.

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.