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May 15, 2009, Washington Examiner
Demolition OK'd for historic church after maintenance found too costly
Maintenance costs trumped calls for preservation in the Third Church of Christ's 18-year battle for demolition rights over its 16th Street building near the White House.
The director of D.C.'s planning office approved the Christian Scientists' bid for demolition rights on Wednesday and concluded maintenance costs for the 40-year-old building were too steep for the church to finance.
Now, the century-old congregation will petition its former development partner, ICG Properties, to fund construction of a new church.
Demolition and reconstruction will begin in about one year, said J. Darrow Kirkpatrick, chairman of the church's redevelopment committee.
"We need to redesign the building and work carefully with the historic preservation board and the advisory neighborhood commission," he said. "If we get approval [of the design] we would be knocking again on the doors of ICG Properties."
In her 29-page report, development office director Harriet Tregoning wrote, "The denial of the permit would result in the inevitable demise of the Third Church as a downtown congregation," considering the church's expenses averaged $44,000 more than its $225,000 income in 2007.
Tregoning, who was appointed as arbiter in the matter by Mayor Adrian Fenty, referred to maintenance reports detailing structural deterioration of the building, water leakage, and heating and cooling problems.
The conflict between the D.C. Preservation League and the Third Church began in 1991, when the church was nominated for historic preservation.
The building, completed in 1971, is an example of brutalist architecture, a style that uses mainly concrete in blocky, angular design.
ICG had backed away from the lengthy battle between church members and preservationists in May 2008.
Company executive David Stern said Thursday that his firm left the partnership because the church was pursuing federal litigation against the city. As for funding the redesign, Stern said, "We own the building, so we certainly have an interest. We are happy to reassess the option."
Kirkpatrick said the Kerns Group of Arlington would design the new church.
The Third Church congregation will have a say in the new design, said Amy Myers, a church member involved in obtaining the demolition permit.
Myers said some of the qualities sought for the new building include "sustainable, welcoming, modifiable so the community can use it, and lots of light."