CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Lee University will soon begin a
new surge of campus development which will bring its borders to the
heart of downtown Cleveland, according to an announcement made by
Lee President Paul Conn at the Cleveland Rotary Club luncheon on
Conn said the university is preparing to move forward with the
integration of the old First Baptist Church of Cleveland properties
into its campus footprint. The plan will include the
renovation of the main sanctuary building into a music performance
hall, the construction of a new academic building, and the
demolition of a building which formerly housed retail space in
Cleveland's downtown area to make way for lawns and open "green
The key to the new plan is "a major gift of property and cash"
from the Allan Jones Foundation, which Conn also announced today.
Allan Jones said, in a prepared statement, "It is our
family's pleasure to make this donation to Lee University, which
will strengthen downtown Cleveland, higher education, and
traditional family values.
Conn declined to reveal the amount of the gift, but announced
that the renovated First Baptist sanctuary will be named "Pangle
Hall" in honor of Janie Jones, Allan's wife. "Pangle is not
only Janie's maiden name, but is also a nickname I gave her.
Many of her friends now know her as 'Pangle Jones'," the
local business leader explained.
The opening of both the new music hall and the academic building
will be scheduled for fall 2014, Conn said. "We are studying
other universities which have recently remodeled old churches into
performance venues. There are some good examples out there.
The old First Baptist sanctuary is a classic, handsome
building, and it is important to us and to the Jones family that
this familiar structure not be altered unnecessarily.
"But there are some changes we will make, mostly inside, which
will make it more suitable for larger musical events. And on
the outside, we will remove the steeple and replace it with a
cupola which will more faithfully reflect an academic style of
Jones told the Banner: "We have watched for many years the
wonderful work Dr. Conn has done defining his campus with
architecture. The continued expansion of Lee's campus toward
the traditional downtown area is a wonderful development for both
Lee and historic Cleveland. The campus reminds me of the
beautiful Ole Miss campus, and our family is proud to be a part of
Conn said the first step in the new plan is "a significant
amount of demolition" of structures within the extended campus
footprint which will create new green, open sight lines and create
room for new construction. Also on the schedule for eventual
demolition are various small houses which lie between the core of
the Lee campus and the new construction.
"We are grateful to the Jones family for this wonderful gift,"
Conn said. "It is the final piece in the puzzle for us.
We have lots of work to do, and it will take us three or four
years to complete the overall plan, but now, thanks to this gift,
we can begin."
Conn reflected that the property slated for redevelopment has
been an important part of downtown Cleveland life throughout his
lifetime. "I worked at J.C. Penney's when I was in high
school," he recalled, "and Allan Jones remembers watching when the
steeple was erected at the First Baptist Church. This area is
full of memories for all of us, and now we hope to redevelop it
into something special for generations to come."
The two other parts of the former First Baptist building will be
used for a campus childcare center and additional classroom space
for one of the university's academic departments.
Photo: (from left) Conn, Jones, Lee Vice President for
University Relations Jerome Hammond, Will Jones (Allan's son), and
Janie "Pangle" Jones