Additional parking will ease a space crunch.

Rendering by Currie Sowards Aguila Architects

By Jane Smith
    Presbyterian parishioners will soon have a more comfortable church-going experience on the barrier island.
    The First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach just received city approval for its $3.5 million renovation.
    Four outer, non-historic buildings on its property were demolished in early February. The bulk of the renovation will start in May, a few weeks after Easter, when the church goes on a summer schedule of holding only one service on Sundays, said Senior Pastor Doug Hood.
    “The church has grown so much in the past four years,” Hood said. Parking for services is at a premium, especially for religious holidays.
    In place of the demolished buildings, the church will add 34 parking spaces. “The city has a new code that dictates space between the cars and landscaping,” he said. That’s why the church was disappointed it could not add more parking, he said.
    “We worked on quite a few renovations to make the parking work. Angle parking is a nightmare for churches with people coming and going for services,” architect Jess Sowards told the city’s Site Plan Review and Appearance Board in late January.  “The 90-degree parking works better. It’s the most efficient for churchgoers.”
    During most of the year, the church rents the 135 parking spaces to the beachfront Caffe Luna Rosa for its valet parking operations.
    The church also owns a parking lot on the west side of Gleason Street that it rents to the city for about $1,720 a month.
    The lot has 39 spaces that are restricted to First Presbyterian parishioners on Sunday mornings and all day on five religious holidays, including Christmas and Easter. One space is reserved for the pastor.
    Most of the $3.5 million has been raised and Hood is confident the remaining $400,000 will be acquired. He told a story of how one elderly couple willingly gave $50,000 when they heard the number of restroom stalls would increase from one to four for both men’s and women’s rooms, which are handicapped-accessible.
    The sanctuary will be enlarged and the porte-cochère entrance will be moved to the middle of the south side of the church with a circular driveway. Lowering that driveway will increase the clearance that rescue vehicles need, Sowards told the board.
    “We will be removing the ridge and lowering the entrance,” he said. To make that change, the church needed only permits from the South Florida Water Management District about the quantity of water runoff.
    The building addition and its new roof will match the existing structure of the historic sanctuary, Sowards said.
    The rear parking area will be level to the church entrance to allow parishioners to avoid using stairs to the sanctuary.

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