HOW WAS THE PROJECT CONCEIVED?
In the 1970’s when the minister of the church needed accommodation, a plan was considered to redevelop the church. Designs were drawn up in various guises, with massive offset vertical concrete slabs forming ultra-modern outside walls, creating a totally new look for the proposed building. Inside various plans were considered including a ministers flat and other accommodation, squash courts and so on ! In the end the plan was abandoned because the revenue projections from the flats would not be enough to fund the work. Perhaps not such a bad outcome in that we were saved from the possibility of a very stark 70’s concrete church having been built. The plans for the 70’s design will be on display as part of an exhibition at the opening of the new building.
RISING PROPERTY VALUE IN THE 90’s
But with the rising price of London accommodation in the 90’s, the situation had changed without anyone in the church being aware, until one day about 7 years ago a visitor asked whether the church “....would be interested in having a new facility for no cost, the development being funded by the sale of flats above the new church space”. In the final outcome the church decided to proceed with an alternative proposal, but the seed had been sown, and enquiries with developers quickly made it clear that the current value of the space made the plan a real possibility.
TAKING ADVICE AND PRAYING ABOUT THE DECISION
Very conscious that many churches have run into serious problems trying to redevelop their sites, the church spent a long time praying, considering and taking expert advice, before deciding to select three development companies and invite them to draw up a preliminary proposal. We wanted to avoid the major problems which sometimes occur, whereby lack of expertise can result in a church getting unsuitable facilities; or where the site has insufficient value, and in the final design the new church area ends up being squeezed into a tiny space to release floor area to fund the development as a whole. We also wanted to make sure we were doing something that God wanted us to, as a project which is undertaken through ambition or over-enthusiasm can easily be misjudged. There were also many concerns about having to give up the huge seating capacity that faithful men and women had built and invested in over the past 150 years. But in the end after lengthy and careful consideration the church felt it was right to look to the future, and use the opportunity to make the building sound again, and much more flexible and accessible, so that its overall use would increase for congregation and local community.
INVITING PROPOSALS AND SELECTING A DEVELOPMENT PARTNER
The proposals had to be invited on the basis that ALL! costs were funded by the developer, including the church’s lawyers, development of preliminary plans, and if the church proceeded further, the costs of full drawings and obtaining planning permission, as well as the project costs. In return the church agreed that if it selected a partner from the three and proceeded to detailled designs, then subject to acceptable development of the proposal by the architect, the contract would become firm once planning permission was approved. Manhattan Loft Corporation were a clear leader from the proposals, both because of the company’s high reputation in redevelopment of existing building spaces, and because of the superb concept for the new building proposed by the architect they engaged. The final proposal planned a new building with 14 apartments in the second floors and above, shops on the Ledbury Road side, and church space on ground and first floors.