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Former Fred's to be daycare facility, church
878M Reach Church   Sam Nissen2

A small, local church has leased the former Freds retail space in downtown Dawsonville.

Reach Church, which currently occupies 1,200 square feet of storefront space behind the old jail, in October leased more than 16,000 square feet once occupied by discount retailer Freds.

Freds closed in May after 10 years in business.

I cant stop and think too hard about how big the space is because it kind of scares me, said Pastor Sam Nissen. We were looking for a bigger commercial spot and knew we wanted to stay in the city.

The exterior of the building, located on Highway 53 approximately one-half mile from city hall, will stay the same, but the interior has undergone major changes.

We started construction a week ago Friday (Jan. 3), and weve already got 75 percent of it framed, and our plumbing will be roughed in tomorrow, Nissen said.

Construction permits have been obtained, according to Nalita Copeland with the City of Dawsonville.

Plans include a 5,000-square-foot sanctuary, a full-time childcare facility, a 2,000-square-foot youth hall, and four- to five-thousand feet dedicated to youth ministry.

Im a former youth pastor and a lot of our focus is on children and youth, Nissen said, adding thathe has a heart for helping single parents, especially single moms.

Daycare has always been part of the vision, he said. We needed a place to do that, and we couldnt do it in our old space. Our goal is to have that part ready in July or August before school starts.

Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan said daycare is needed in the city.

I think its just great, he said. Everybody has to go to (Highway) 400, and theres a real need for it. Theres a lot of people using family and friends, but to have someone they can depend on all the time will be a real benefit.

Prior to his work with Reach, Nissen worked as a paramedic and sold real estate in Dawson and Lumpkin counties.

I never really planned to be the pastor of a church, and for a long time I thought I was done with church, he said. From the beginning, our goal was to reach people who dont feel comfortable going to church. God started talking to me about this, and when he talks, you have to listen. I didnt have a choice. The growth has been phenomenal.

A Dawson County native, Nissen graduated from Dawson County High School in 1989.

He worked with local architect Peter Hill of HDA Architects.

We started dialogue about a month ago and the city was very cooperative, Hill said. The permit process was not drawn out. We had to do a floor plan, plumbing and electrical drawings. Other municipalities would have required a complete set, but because they know me, theres a level of trust.

Build-out is expected to be completed in February. Reach Churchs daycare services will be state-licensed and operate Monday - Friday, Nissen said. The anticipated opening date for the daycare facility is July or August.