Mar 8 2011

Council Consideration of Concept of Cultural Arts Center at 801 Magnolia

At the March 7, 2011, Piedmont City Council meeting the concept of turning the former Christian Science Church into a cultural arts center was considered.  A number of supporters of the concept presented information on how the building might be used and how it could be brought up to a safe, usable condition.

There was concern about the current state of disrepair from the roof to the structural support of the building.  The City had planned to tear down the Church under a master plan to develop the Civic Center with a large underground parking garage, Olympic size pool, and adjacent offices and shops. This plan halted repairs to the building.   In the picture below is an example of the peeling paint and cracked windows.

The proponents have suggested making phased repairs to the building in exchange for a 10 year rent free lease.  The proposal includes the ability of the Piedmont Center for the Arts to sublet the property and use the revenue to offset their expenses.  The Piedmont Choirs organization was present to support the concept in hopes of being able to use some of the space.

The concept as presented only includes the late 1800’s sanctuary part of the building and does not include the more recently built Sunday School wing.  It is the older sanctuary part of the building where the problems are most prevalent.  The City Administrator said the City has plans for the Sunday School wing to be used for its own needs.  This was not explored by the Council.

Some who spoke saw the building as an opportunity to hold art classes, art shows, musical events, small scale stage performances,  and choir practices. Others have suggested a Senior Center, a reading room, a child care facility, co-op or internet volunteer-run library, and meeting rooms be incorporated into the use.

Resident George Childs cautioned the Council about the structural problems of the aged building displaying his photographs of the foundation and support system.  To bring the building up to code in meeting regulations for public buildings with accessible facilities would increase the improvement costs. He encouraged the Council to take the conversation to the community at large and know what the true costs were before entering into an agreement with any group.

The Council took no immediate action on the concept.  There were requests from the Council for further information on the structural and code needs of the building.  The Council made no determination on the process to be followed in making decisions. Typically, changes in use have gone to the Planning Commission.

All Council members present (Vice Mayor John Chiang was away on business) seemed to be interested in the concept.  The City Administrator noted he was very busy at this time with the public process involving Blair Park and this new concept would take careful review.  The Council did not authorize the City Administrator to begin negotiations with the proponents expressing a desire for more information first, which allows input from the community.   No date for future consideration was set.

Photograph of west-facing window of the former Christian Science Church at the corner of Bonita and Magnolia Avenues.  The photo shows the peeling paint and disrepair of the windows.






One Response to “Council Consideration of Concept of Cultural Arts Center at 801 Magnolia”

  1. It would be good to have a study of how to best use the property instead of just responding to a proposal placed before the citizens. My initial reaction is that a cultural arts center is a low priority.

    Peeling paint and cracked windows are a minor matter. It would be nice to know what the structural problems are.

    I would vigorously oppose an underground parking lot or a olympic sized pool on those grounds.

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