A prominent SouthPark church will redevelop its property for mixed use after church members voted in favor of the proposal.
The Rev. Kyle Thompson, senior pastor of Sharon United Methodist Church, proposed to his 700-person congregation in 2013 his vision for turning the church’s 7-acre property into a mixed-use development.
The church, at the corner of Morrison Boulevard and Sharon Road, is across the street from SouthPark mall.
At the time, Thompson said the development could include restaurants, fitness facilities, retail and office space, with the church being the anchor. He even suggested a performing arts center.
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“Our vision is to be the spiritual crossroads of the SouthPark community,” said Thompson. “We can be the literal crossroads of SouthPark, where we do life together.”
On Nov. 9, adult members of the congregation voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal, Thompson said. He could not provide specifics because the church took a hand vote, but he said more than 300 members were in attendance.
“We’re very excited about that,” Thompson said. “We think God has blessed us with this amazing location, and we want to share it with the community.”
Thompson said that after vetting 15 developers, church leadership decided to partner with Childress Klein Properties.
“The reason we chose them was they understand and share the same vision that we have,” he said.
The next steps, Thompson said, will be to work on a detailed architectural plan and go through the zoning process. The land is zoned R-3, with government and institutional use.
“That’s going to take some time to do both of those things,” he said.
Thompson said he was first inspired to pursue a mixed-use development after a ministers conference where the bishop challenged churches to boldly imagine what the church looks like in the 21st century.
He said the idea of mixing church life with public life goes back to ancient Rome, when basilicas housed businesses and courtrooms.
Kandy Steiner, who has attended Sharon United Methodist for nearly 18 years, is one of the members who voted in favor of the mixed-use development concept. She said she was excited about the opportunity to reach thousands of people every day with the new facility, and to grow the church’s ministry “exponentially.”
“Right now I feel like the current building that we’re in has kind of reached the end of its potential,” she said. “We’re not visible like we once were physically, because our community has grown up around us.”
Steiner said that while the church used to be a beacon in the community residents could see from afar, now “you really can’t see us at all.”
She pointed out some people who work at Harris Teeter who don’t even realize they’re driving by a church every day.
Steiner said that even though the SouthPark area has a reputation for being wealthy, it still may be impoverished in some ways.
“There are various forms of poverty. Poverty isn’t just a financial situation. You can be very lonely, you can be hungry for love and healthy relationships and a deeper meaning for your life,” she said. “And all of those needs are met when you have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. We want people to have a rich life.”
Thompson said he hopes to break ground by Sharon United Methodist’s 50th anniversary in 2016, although he said that’s a best-case scenario.
Thompson said church members now are looking for a temporary location during construction.
He said that while some churches might be concerned about losing members during the transition, the opposite is happening at Sharon United.
“I think people are so excited that we plan to continue growing through the construction process,” he said.
Even amid all the change, Thompson said, at least one well-known feature will remain: the slope that has inspired the building’s nickname: “the ski slope church.”
“We want to somehow incorporate that into the church building,” he said. “We want to honor that icon.”