Gainesville residents are challenging the plan to tear down Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church and build a shopping center that’s been proposed by CHW, an architectural engineering company.
The plan targets the southwest side of the intersection of NW 23rd Avenue and NW 43rd Street.
Construction lawyer Don Neisen said many are concerned the construction will cause unwanted noise and traffic for those living nearby, and that the new shopping center will have a negative impact on local businesses.
“Our group is not opposed to all development,” Neisen said. “We do not want a change to the land use and zoning for this property. That’s it.”
Representatives from Gainesville Vineyard Church and other local churches showed up to a Gainesville city plan board meeting Thursday night saying they want to move into the building to keep it from being demolished.
“There are a lot of locally-owned business in that area that would suffer if they bring in more fast food restaurants,” Michael Raburn, pastor at Gainesville Vineyard Church, said.
Raburn also said the building’s historic architectural significance is worth preserving. It’s the only Gainesville structure that architect Nils Schweizer designed; he trained with famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the Taliesin Fellowship program. It’s been in the diocese since 1958.
“It’s a beautiful church. There’s no reason to tear it down,” Raburn said. “Our church would be interested in locating there.”
Eunice Johnson lives in Millhopper Pines, an apartment complex across NW 43rd Street from the proposed development. She’d like to see it become a community center.
“Or have it renovated to a concert hall. It supposedly has good acoustics. Why waste that?” she asked.
The plan board voted unanimously to postpone a decision on the property’s future last night after a request from CHW and Niesen; they’re now planning a neighborhood meeting on the project. The board will again consider it on April 26 at Gainesville City Hall.