Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Pews and Parking

Hoggard and Cone have been blogging about the First Presbyterian Church's proposal to demolish 620 N. Elm Street in order to make room for a parking lot (you can read about it here).

As a member of the Greensboro Historic Preservation Commission, I can't comment on or discuss this proposal, since I'll be voting on it at the next HPC meeting. The HPC commission has the power to delay demolition of historic structures for one year, but can't stop it.

First Presbyterian's situation reminded me of that at my own church, Our Lady of Grace, which is located in one of Greensboro's most beautiful and historic neighborhoods (though it's not a historic district), Sunset Hills.

The OLG property includes a church, a K-8 school (which my children have attended for the past 10 years), and a pre-k program. If I read Greensboro's development ordinance correctly, current minimum parking standards would mandate that OLG church and school should provide at least 180 parking places on site to accommodate its students, staff, and the more than 1,700 families who are registered church members.

Somehow OLG gets by with a mere 99 parking spaces on site.

That means that a lot of people park on the street in Sunset Hills in order to attend services, especially on days like Easter and Christmas.

Parking has sometimes been a source of friction between the church and the neighborhood, since some of our parishioners aren't always careful about not blocking driveways, etc.

But our clergy remind us from time to time to be good neighbors, and on the whole I think the relationship between the church and the neighborhood is good. I certainly enjoy walking through that beautiful neighborhood when I'm on my way to church -- especially in spring, because Sunset Hills has some of the most fabulous dogwoods and redbuds in town. (It also has lots of sidewalks!)

I'm proud of my church because it has bought and adaptively re-used a number of residences in Sunset Hills for housing our clergy, for church-related activities, and for office space. In the time that I've been a parishioner (since 1992), OLG hasn't torn anything down.

I like to think my church is a good neighbor to Sunset Hills, and I hope the residents feel the same way.


Anonymous said...

As a bad Catholic who only goes to church on Christmas and Easter, I have found that even on those busiest days, it is not problematic to park in the surrounding neighborhood at OLG. Churches in urban neighborhoods need to accept that they may have to walk a bit to get to church. The attraction of an urban church is that it is part of the neighborhood and not a giant building surrounded by an immense parking lot right off a highway. Residents of the neighborhood have to accept certain inconveniences during mass times (although they shouldn't have their driveways blocked). Urban churches as almost always older churches, and the neighborhood residents new about the church when they moved into their homes. These older churches are almost always attractive structures and make the neighborhoods more desirable.

Anonymous said...

1st Pres and OLG are hardly comparable. OLG is close to St. Andrews Episcopal, but St. Andrews has its own huge parking lot. But downtown, 1st Pres, Holy Trinity Episcopal and Anderson Grove Baptist (which meets in what used to be Temple Emanuel's fellowship hall) are within one block of each other and have services on Sunday at roughly the same time. Many hundreds more cars.

David Wharton said...

St. Andrews' lot on Market has 85 spaces.