St. Thomas More Church planning to construct new school, worship buildingsSaint Thomas More Catholic Church. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA — St. Thomas More Catholic Church is planning to expand its school building and worship space, located at 618 W. Ponce de Leon Ave.
The Decatur City Commission, at its Jan. 16 regular meeting, approved an amendment to the comprehensive site development plan for the church.
The property is designated as an institutional zoning district, which is regulated by a comprehensive site development plan, according to the planning commission’s staff report. The Decatur Planning Commission recommended approval with conditions, which included capping enrollment at 516 students and reducing the parking spaces in the surface lot to 120 spaces.
To see all the conditions in the ordinance, click here.
Hank Houser with Houser Walker Architecture, the architect of the project, said the school building is on the immediate horizon and the worship center will be renovated in the future, but there is currently no timeline for construction.
In the next couple of years, the church hopes to build a bigger school building, renovate an existing worship building, make improvements to its athletic fields, and construct stormwater detention in its athletic field area, Paul Flippo, a consultant for the church’s project, told the planning commission.
The church plans to increase the square footage of the school but does not plan to increase enrollment. The maximum enrollment is currently 516 students. According to the application, the new school building will be two stories and house kindergarten through fifth-grade students.
The existing classrooms in the church will be converted into meeting space.
“The third floor of the Worship Building will get a complete reconfiguration, removing the double-loaded corridor to create a new layout to accommodate meetings rooms of various sizes for the parish,” the application states.
The field on the property will be renovated as well, either with natural or synthetic turf to improve drainage. Landscaping for the new school building will include a pathway from the sidewalk to the field.
In terms of future projects, St. Thomas More plans to construct a new two-story worship building with 600 to 700 seats on the main level and parish meeting spaces below, the application states.
The current worship space would become the parish commons and administration building.
“A new, two-story entry at the main parking lot provides direct access to the new commons, a central gathering place for both entries,” the application says. “Parish Offices will move to the third floor of the current worship building in the long-term plan, giving staff a cohesive location with dedicated collaborative space and break room.”
Houser told the city commission that there are some minor changes to the parking.
One of the conditions in the ordinance says that the on-site parking will be reduced to 120 spaces. Some of the spaces in the parking lot will become on-street parking, so the total number of spaces available will remain at 140 spaces.
“The area behind the church, which is the primary area for the school and carpool, there are no changes associated with that,” Houser said. “The portion that faces Ponce, currently in the footprint of where the new school would go, there are six or seven where priests park for the rectory. The school displaces those. There’s parking along Ponce so that existing parking along Ponce gets widened to move those spaces forward.”
Another condition in the ordinance stipulates that the curbing and sidewalks along West Ponce de Leon Avenue have to be maintained and there will be a dedicated parallel parking lane with 20 spaces.
The entrance to the school campus will also remain the same, and the current carpool queuing will also be the same as it is currently, the application says.
“While the proposed worship building will prominently face Ponce de Leon and have increased street presence and pedestrian access, the primary vehicle entry will still be off Trinity with access through the new Parish Commons (the existing worship space),” the application says.
A new transformer will be installed on the property as well to provide power to the new school building.
“It would be coming from Ponce. We looked at a variety of locations and are building it into the hillside and are screening it with trees and a brick enclosure,” Houser said.
Here are renderings of the planned construction:
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