Church receives approval

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Plans to renovate the Oxford University United Methodist Church were given the OK by two historic preservation boards Tuesday night that include a two-level parking deck and demolition of one the buildings on the church’s campus.

The Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission and the residential Historic Preservation Commission met in a joint meeting at City Hall to review the church’s plans for renovations since the church property falls under both historic preservation districts; however, the Courthouse Square board’s jurisdiction only covers the parking lot area of the church.

Both boards approved the plans that will expand the church while leaving the historical aspect of the church intact.

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Ann Somers with CDFL Architects of Jackson, and Ron Hipp, church renovation project chairman, presented the plans to the commission, requesting a Certificate of Appropriateness.

The plans include a new entry tower and covered walk way to the main building entrance; new contemporary worship space with sound and video systems; new two-story gathering space and new “journey” contemporary worship space; new office suite with conference room, break room, work room, bathrooms and reception area; new entry to the second-floor from a new parking deck with large gathering area; large classrooms and choir practice room; interior renovation of existing classrooms and a two-tiered parking structure with gate access for 52 vehicles.

The parking deck will not have ramps. Each of the levels will be accessed individually and will not connect.

The Courthouse Square commission approved the parking deck plans unanimously.

Part of the new plans call for the demolition of the 10,000-square foot building, built in 1934, that contains mostly office space. It will be replaced by a 50,000-square foot building.

The commission deemed the building was non-contributing to the district and would not cause harm to surround properties.

“It’s not architecturally significant for the property as a whole,” said HPC chairman Brian Hyneman.

Wesley Hall and the church chapel will be left as is. Renovations will be done to the part of the church that was built in 1964 and serves as an entryway and has several classrooms. The activity center and gym, which were constructed in 2006, will not be changed.

“We will be matching the existing buildings as much as possible and using similar materials, but we want there to be a difference between what’s new,” Somers said.

Similar plans were presented to the commissions last year by a different architect for a complementary review but weren’t presented for a Certificate of Appropriateness at that time.

Hipp said he hopes to start construction around June 1.

“I expect it to take about 16 to 18 months to complete the project,” he told the commissions.