Methodists look to expand church property

A three-story addition could be in store for Missouri United Methodist Church.
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:05 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

With an eye on the needs of future parishioners, Missouri United Methodist Church is planning to grow.

The massive limestone church at Ninth and Locust streets is in the preliminary design phase of a projected $8.5 million expansion that would add about 40,000 square feet to its existing facilities, which now measure about 64,000 square feet, the Rev. Neal Lassinger said.

The church is looking at using its property resources more efficiently by building a three-story building on what is now a parking lot. In the process, the old Wendy’s building would be demolished. The building is used by the church as the Wesley Student Center and, under the plan, the church would buy the property from the Wesley Foundation.

Details of the plan — which await congregational approval before any further steps are taken — include more classroom space, a new church library and a multipurpose room. The multipurpose room would be used for contemporary worship services, as a gym and for other events. The existing building will also undergo renovations.

James Lane, co-chairman of the church’s building committee, said the new building would be matched in style to the old one. The buildings would be linked by a corridor with a glass atrium.

“The enclosed glass tower and atrium will be a beacon to the campus and the community so people will see that there is life in the church and come join,” Lane said at an informational meeting Sunday.

Three such meetings have been held so far, and a fourth will be held March 28 to present the revised building plans to the congregation. A vote will be held on March 30.

The church has talked seriously about expanding the property for more than a year. The first set of plans did not provide as much additional square footage as the revised plans, which the church received about a month ago, according to Lane.

Lassinger said Missouri United Methodist is trying to anticipate the needs of future generations.

“The current building’s been here about 75 years,” he said. “As we’ve done our planning, we’ve tried to look at least 50 years ahead. The design process is driven by our desire to do more ministry work.”

The current building resulted from an ambitious expansion plan begun in 1921.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of the church,” Lane said. “We’re trying to emulate the type of development and leadership they put forth at that time.”

Lane said that of the church members who voted to go forward with the original design plans, about 80 percent favored expansion.

“Well, it’s a mixed bag,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people that are really for it.”

On March 30, the church will hold a congregationwide meeting to vote on the revised plans. If the congregation approves them, the next phase of the process — a detail design phase — will begin.

“After the approval, the architectural firms will do more detailed work,” Lane said. The design firms of Simon Oswald Associates of Columbia and Butler, Rosenbury & Partners of Springfield, Mo., are working with the church on the planned expansion.

The church has not yet submitted any plans or application permits to the city, Lane said. Only after the expansion and costs have been approved by the congregation will the church move forward in talking with the city.

“The church elders would develop a finance committee responsible for putting together a drive in addition to regular tithing and fund-raising,” Lane said.

“If we go forward to the detail design phase, then we’ll look at fund-raising in the fall and building next year,” Lassinger said. “That would be our hope.”

Lauren Lobenhofer, a Wesley Foundation peer minister, is excited about the building plans, which include a new Wesley Student Center. She said the expanded center would allow the college ministry to host more statewide events with other Wesley ministries.

“We’ve got a lot of hopes and dreams for the future of

the church here in Colum-

bia,” Lassinger said. “It’s an exciting thing, an amazing process to go through for a church.”

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