Downtown Church, the laid-back Presbyterian-affiliated church that likes to take coffee breaks in the middle of services so congregants can mingle, offered the first peek Monday at its new building at the old S.C. State Hospital Campus on Bull Street.
The former Central Energy Facility power plant on the 181-acre former mental hospital campus complex is being renovated for the church. The plan shows minimalist architecture that opens the structure up for outdoor meetings, concerts and events.
“It’s essentially just a big square box,” said church co-pastor Dawn Hyde. “It’s meant to be a multi-use facility and not just a church.”
The design features a wide open interior floor plan and modern mezzanine. But the key features are three large pre-existing bay doors that can be opened to access a large courtyard. A fourth bay will be installed to overlook an expansive lawn suitable for concerts or large outdoor meetings.
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It also will retain a large former work shed suitably renovated for receptions, oyster roasts or open markets.
“With the outside green space we can have a pretty significant event,” co-pastor Amos Disasa said at Monday’s meeting of the Bull Street Commission, a public commission appointed by BullStreet developer Hughes Development Corp. of Greenville and Columbia City Council.
BullStreet is considered the biggest land deal in modern Columbia history. Developers have plans for thousands of homes, stores and offices, all surrounding an existing minor league baseball stadium and planned central city park.
But vertical development has been slow at the site because a planned 400,000-square-foot shopping village with up to to 80 retail stores fell through. Also, a high-end movie theater that announced it would locate at the campus later pulled out.
But the complex has had some development. The city has built a $37 million mostly public-funded professional baseball stadium that serves as the development’s centerpiece; Hughes Development Corp. has built a 100,000-square-foot office building; and three historic buildings have been renovated.
Twenty-eight luxury townhouses are now being built, and an upscale senior living complex and possibly a new medical school for the University of South Carolina are planned. Apartments are also planned for the massive and iconic Babcock Building with its distinctive red cupola.
Robert Hughes, president of Hughes Development Corp., said the company donated the power plant to the church because it would bring more life, and of course, spirituality, to the project.
“Every great neighborhood needs a great church, and Downtown Church’s plans and vision align perfectly with our overall vision,” he said.
Downtown Church started from scratch about three years ago with assistance from the influential Eastminister Presbyterian Church on Trenholm Road. The congregation, which now boasts 450 members, currently holds its relaxed, informal meetings at the 701 Whaley event space in Olympia.
The estimated $3 million renovation of the 18,000-square-foot Central Energy Facility (which incidentally will keep the same name) is expected to start soon.
“Ideally we would like to be there for Easter,” Disasa said.