GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — An Orange County university has offered to buy property belonging to the world-famous Crystal Cathedral Ministries, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late last year, officials said Tuesday.
Chapman University has offered $46 million to use two buildings on the sprawling campus in Garden Grove, possibly for a new medical school, said university president Jim Doti.
Other possibilities include exploring the option of building a pharmacy or dental program on half of the property, with the remaining 35 acres leased back to the megachurch, he said.
“It is hard to find buildable land in a dynamic community like Garden Grove,” Doti told the Associated Press, noting the church property is near several major hospitals. “To dream big dreams, it helps to have the wherewithal to do it — and the space.”
The offer — which was approved by Chapman’s board of trustees in June — was reported in bankruptcy court filings on Tuesday by the creditors’ committee, which favors the university’s proposal over a rival offer by Orange County-based real estate investment firm Greenlaw Partners LLC.
That plan was put forth by Crystal Cathedral Ministries to help the church developed by “Hour of Power” televangelist Robert Schuller escape crushing debt.
But there are other potential offers in the works and it is too soon to say what will happen to the sprawling church property, said Marc Winthrop, the church’s bankruptcy attorney.
Winthrop said he has received at least two other major proposals for the site featuring a famous glass spire, including one from a religious institution, but declined to name the potential buyers. A bankruptcy court hearing has been scheduled for next Tuesday to establish bidding rules for the property going forward.
“Things are somewhat unsettled,” Winthrop said, “And that is OK because all of the proposals that are coming in are good proposals and will get the creditors paid in full.”
Church creditors have raised concerns about the bidding process in court papers, arguing the university’s offer is more favorable than the Greenlaw deal.
The church aims to sell off its property — and lease portions back for use for services — to help erase its $36 million mortgage and wipe out almost all of the $10 million in unsecured debt that has plagued the institution for several years after a disastrous leadership transition and slump in donations.
Schuller, who got his start in Southern California in the mid-1950s preaching about the “power of positive thinking” from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in theater, was recently designated as an emeritus member of the church’s board but lost the ability to vote on church business, Winthrop said.
A message left for Crystal Cathedral spokesman John Charles regarding the change was not immediately returned.