SEBRING - Restoration Center has been foreclosed, said auctioneer Randy Kincaid of Lakeland. Attempts to sell the mega-church were unsuccessful, and Kincaid's December auction did not bring a high enough bid. "We never received a sufficient offer for the property to satisfy the bank's mortgage and closing expenses," Kincaid said last week. Suntrust Bank was the mortgage holder and is now the owner after purchasing the sprawling church at the foreclosure sale at Highlands County courthouse.
The Restoration Church of the Highlands's first service was a baptism on Mother's Day 2001, which is still the county's largest auditorium. The late Arlan Sapp has pastored the church since 1978, but died before it was sold. At the time it was built at Sparta Road and State Road 66, Highlands County's population was growing, and the inter-denominational 32,000-square-foot building with a 1,000-seat auditorium on 43 acres seemed like a good idea. However, during the economic downturn, the congregation stopped growing at 550 members and eventually dropped to 120 when Sapp was interviewed in November. In June 2010, Sapp told Highlands County commissioners the church was appraised in 2005 for $7.5 million. He asked whether the county would consider paying $4.25 million for the auditorium and 42.5 acres of land. Real estate agents tried to peddle the church to the county several times, but the commissioners turned down each offer. firstname.lastname@example.org 863-386-5828863-386-5828