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Historic Downtown Brighton Church Gets City Approval for Site Expansion

St Paul's Episcopal Church will keep its original 1881 structure.

It's been a long time since the entire St. Paul's Episcopal Church congregation could all worship in one room at the same time, according to St. Paul's Pastor, Rev. Deon Johnson.

After working on site plans for an expansion for two years, the church has finally come up with a solution. It will preserve the historical 1881 portion of the building and demolish the L-shaped structure that was added in 1992.

Brighton City Council members unanimously approved the church's expansion plans, and thanked them for choosing to remain in the city.

Jeff Smith, an architect with Professional Engineering Associations (PEA) in Howell explained to council that the current building is undersized and has problems with the foundation and roofing. The church's options were to sell the building and move out of town or demolish the current building and start new.

"Both of those options were really unacceptable to the congregation because they had been on this site for 130 years," Smith said. "There is an emotional attachment to the 1881 building."

The concept is to tear down the part built in 1992 and in the part built in the 1950s that really have no aesthetic appeal," he said. "And actually what it does is restore the original form of the 1881 building. Because the 1992 addition is pasted on to it. And what that does is really distinguishes that part (historic church) from the rest of it."

The new building will be large enough to hold almost 300 people, but will not compete with the historical building too much. It will also match some of the details in the round windows, roof detailing, bricks and shingles.

The entire project will cost the church $2.1 million.

If funding comes through as projected, Johnson said the church hopes to break ground on the expansion in April or May of 2013. The entire project is expected to take between 10 to 18 months to complete, during which time church services will be held somewhere offsite.

"We're raising funds from the congregation and the hope is, once that's all done, we're going to try and raise funds in the general Brighton community because it's such a landmark in the city," Johnson said. "We just hope there's an interest in preserving the original building."

Matt Modrack, DDA Community Dev. Director addressed St. Paul's expansion in his discussion about the future of Brighton at the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce's Brighton Forward Town Hall meeting on Thursday morning.

"It's very significant, as I have watched city's downtowns lose churches, and that's not good," he said. "They lose churches because what happens is somebody bequeaths them 40 acres in the middle of nowhere ,and they build and then have all the parking they need. It's parking, parking, parking. They have to grow just like any business. So this is very significant that they're staying."

Rick Schulte December 07, 2012 at 02:00 PM
This is great for Downtown Brighton! You are right; it's proven that having a vibrant church in any downtown area is good for the community. Obviously, this is also great for the folks at St. Paul's.
Nancy Flanagan December 07, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Beautifully executed plans! And thanks--so much--for remaining the little church on the millpond. One of Brighton's gems, both in setting and in mission.

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