The future of St. John's could be announced as early as next week, owner says

Matt Algarin
St. John Greek Orthodox Church was purchased by Destin businessman Mike Buckingham, who is currently working on plans for the property.

After purchasing the abandoned St. John Greek Orthodox Church at 303 U.S. Hwy. 98 recently, Destin businessman Mike Buckingham said he is getting close to making a big announcement.

"We're definitely working on something," he told The Log Friday morning. "I hope to have something in place by Monday or Tuesday."

Based on records from the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser's website, the church was built in 1983 and sits on a long, but narrow 0.34-acre parcel of land between SCUBA Tech and a dentist's office. Buckingham purchased the church and the property for $330,000 through Colt One LLC.

Buckingham told The Log in March that his initial thought was to transform the old church, which was built by L.J. Henderson, into a restaurant, but he wasn't going to rush to a decision. Reiterating those sentiments, Buckingham said at this point he has no plans to tear the structure down.

"My goal is to keep the existing structure," he said, adding that he had recently hired an engineer to study the building and make sure it's "structurally sound."

And while he couldn't confirm his exact plans for the church, Buckingham did say that he has been removing the old, mildewed carpet and pews, which were donated to a church in Sandestin.

There is no development order plans on file at the city of Destin, according to planning officials. The last time a permit was issued in relation to the church was in 1996 when the roof was replaced.

Buckingham said he also knows the importance of the structure and the concern from residents that don't want to see it go away. Talking to people around town, he said it's been a positive experience.

"I'm hearing good, positive things from people," he said. "We even had one of the grandkids come by and take a nameplate that he wanted off of one of the pews."