Dallas civic leaders at a press conference November 1 announced a $130 million capital campaign to build an expansive 1.5-million-square-foot, state-of-the-art campus with meeting facilities in downtown Dallas.

Is this a new hotel project or a new convention center? No, it's a project of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Church fundraising experts are calling it the largest church-building program in modern history, according to a First Baptist press release.

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist said: "Jerry Jones [owner of the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys] recently unveiled a new $1.2 billion 'temple to sport.' In these tough economic times, why can't we use our gifts to build a church building that provides a spiritual oasis and matches the splendor and majesty of God?"

The church announcement follows a wave of downtown revitalization projects, including the opening last month of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts and ongoing construction of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel and Trinity River Project.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, a member of the 140-year-old congregation, said the project will benefit everyone in the community by providing an open and inviting atmosphere. The project also will bring more parking to the area. "This is a critical and important investment in downtown Dallas," Leppert said. "It will have an impact on this community and what we're trying to accomplish in creating more of an urban setting that is vibrant and exciting and brings people downtown."

The project includes a 3,000-seat worship center with high-definition screens, a sweeping glass concourse, a six-floor education building, two gymnasiums, children's play areas, and an outdoor concert space.

Mark Lovvorn, chairman of the church's Planning and Development Committee, said the economic downturn has led to unprecedented potential savings in construction costs, citing research showing that for every dollar spent the church will receive up to $1.30 in value.

First Baptist will ask its members to make a three-year financial commitment, above and beyond their regular contributions, to the building program, with the total committed being announced in May. If all goes according to plan, construction will start in fall 2010 and be completed, debt-free, in 2013. More than $62 million has been committed so far.