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New Building for Expanding Congregation

The building project of Vienna Presbyterian Church would demolish portions of its current campus and replace those portions with a new building for education and outreach.

Next year, as Vienna Presbyterian Church marks its 130th anniversary, it may also be celebrating the groundbreaking of a new building project that would consolidate its Christian Education, classroom and office space. The new project would enable Vienna Presbyterian to accommodate the ever-growing attendance numbers in its three Sunday morning services and in its education and outreach programs, church members say.

"We chose to do what we believe we needed to do," said associate pastor Wayne Blaser.

The church intends to demolish two sections of the church, built in 1959 and 1986, and construct in its place a three-floor building that would house a 400 to 500-person multipurpose hall, several seminar rooms and classrooms, expanded space for its preschool program, administrative offices, a kitchen, a library/bookstore, and space for its youth and outreach programs.

The project, which could cost $9.2 million in construction costs, is part of a modified master plan that began in 1995 with the construction of the new sanctuary, which was completed in 1998.

"Important then and important now is the continuing education and fellowship needs of the church," said church member and Oakton resident Jim Zinn. "We really needed to do something dramatic to address the Christian education part of our church."

Vienna Presbyterian members began creating a master plan in 1989, and the first phase of its plan, a newer, brighter sanctuary that would accommodate more people, was completed in 1998.

Church members initially approved the idea of another building for classroom and office space to the congregation in January 2002, and the church had its first capital funds campaign for the project later that spring, according to Blaser.

Yet as attendance grew from 1,100 people in its three services in 1998 to 1,400 people attending presently, with the 9:30 a.m. service nearing seating capacity, the church rethought its plan for consolidating classroom and office space.

"We realized that our master plan was not capable of handling the growth," said building committee chair and Vienna resident Hal Davis, who is also an architect.

After examining several possibilities, church members decided to demolish the two older sections of the church and replace them with a new building that would use space more efficiently, Davis continued.

The church met with the town's Planning Commission, the Vienna Town Council and the Board of Zoning Appeals throughout 2003 to discuss their plan. After some discussion about landscaping and parking, the town approved the project earlier this year.

The three-story building would be architecturally similar to the current sanctuary, and the church agreed to add additional greenery on Maple Avenue so as to conceal the parking lot.

"We tried to use our chapel as our inspiration for materials, color," said Davis, referring to the original 1874 church building which still stands at the corner of Church and Mill Streets, N.E.

"It's going to continue the aesthetic of the 1998 building," said lead project architect Neal Roseberry of LeMay Erickson Architects. The Reston firm had also designed the sanctuary. The "façade has been sculpted to blend with the Victorian houses in the neighborhood."

Blaser hopes the church can get building permits from the county in spring 2004, with construction starting possibly as early as May or June. Architects had projected the building to be completed in 15 to 18 months.

The church is currently looking into possible spaces where they can hold their classes while construction is underway. After construction is completed, the church will lose eight parking spaces, but Blaser said they had renewed their agreements with neighboring lots for 400 spaces for Sunday.

Once the building is completed, not only will it house the church's administrative offices, classrooms and youth and outreach offices, it may continue to serve as a meeting place for Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Women's Center, and English language classes. The building will also allow the church to expand its preschool program by as much as 50 percent.

The church currently hosts each week roughly 90 to 100 activities, both church and non-church related, according to Blaser.