Church’s sale offers divine opportunity for University Park -- Gazette.Net


A proposal to move University Park Town Council meetings to a nearby church might have attendees sitting more at ease.

Currently, the council holds meetings in the University Park Elementary School library — often using child-sized chairs — because the town hall is too small and not handicapped-accessible.

The challenge has town leaders weighing whether to purchase Riverdale Presbyterian Church, which the town uses when the school isn’t available, for a new meeting site and possibly as a new town hall.

“At the elementary school, we sit in these little chairs, and we have to move things around,” said Councilman Lenford Carey (Ward 4), chairman of the Council Committee on Public Facilities and Services.

The council also has to coordinate meetings around school events. “The logistics are sometimes daunting,” Carey said.

The congregation of Riverdale Presbyterian approached the town last summer to sell the church to the town, Carey said.

The current town hall on Baltimore Avenue is half a mile from the church, which can hold approximately 300 people.

The church was built around 1950 to accommodate a growing church population, which moved from Riverdale Park to University Park, said Joyce Korab of Ashton, head of the church’s communications department.

Korab said the nature of ministry has changed and is no longer focused on church services, which have seen decreasing attendance in recent years.

“The definition of what a church does has changed, and having that huge building no longer makes sense,” Korab said. “Ministry is more about being in the community, working with people where they are.”

Mayor John Tabori said purchasing the church would help the town and other organizations.

“Most of the community groups in University Park meet at the church for their regular meetings, and this would allow them to continue to do so,” he said.

Neither Korab nor town officials would say how much the church might cost.

Korab said the congregation would lease back space needed for services.

“We need less space, and the community needs more space. It’s a win-win situation,” Korab said.

Carey said the proposal is in a preliminary stage, and negotiations with the church have not yet begun.

Carey said the church also is far bigger than University Park would need. Parts could be used for a civic center or senior center.

Councilman David Brosch (Ward 1) said approximately 25 employees work at Town Hall. He said it’s too early to tell if Town Hall would be sold to offset the cost of purchasing the church.

“We’re still in the very preliminary stages of discussions,” Brosch said. “A lot more work still needs to be done.”

A public forum on the possible purchase will be held at the church, located at 6513 Queens Chapel Road, at 7 p.m. Oct. 10, and additional forums will be scheduled, Carey said.