New sanctuary approved for Lutheran church

A request by Birmingham's Lutheran Church of the Redeemer to replace and expand its sanctuary was considered and unanimously approved by the Birmingham City Commission at its meeting on Monday, July 20. A public hearing was held to consider approving a special land use permit amendment and final site plan and design review of the church expansion, located at 1800 W. Maple, just west of Chesterfield, which was seeking to expand its sanctuary, narthex, a new steeple and spire and make related other improvements, notably to its landscaping. Birmingham planner Brooks Cowan said the church is looking to remove the current sanctuary and rebuild a larger sanctuary for larger services and gatherings. The new sanctuary would be 10,671 square feet, an increase of 4,113 square feet. They are also including a larger gathering space and rehearsal space, which will allow for a new and larger organ to be used, he said. All exterior materials would match current materials, in order to provide a seamless transition. “The church was built in 1942, and the current sanctuary was built in 1952,” Cowan said. The city requires 86 parking spaces, and the church has 218, more than exceeding the requirement. However, it was noted that on Sundays during services, they require overflow at nearby Mills' Pharmacy's parking lot. During weekdays, the lot is frequently largely vacant, prompting commissioner Stuart Sherman to point out that while he was in favor of approval, he hoped in the future the church would be willing to work with the city on reciprocal parking needs, which he said had been refused in the past. As for landscaping improvements, Cowan said the church was proposing to remove 14 trees in the front and add 11 new trees on the eastern side of the front, along with an assortment of perennials and shrubs, as well as planting annuals at the base of the driveway “to welcome guests.” In addition, they will be adding an ADA-compliant pathway wrapping the exterior of the sanctuary. Commissioner Rackeline Hoff asked what members will be doing for services during construction. “We have a gym and temporary seating will be set up,” said architect Ron Cieslak.

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