Rendering of proposed new church building for the Unitarian Church of Los Alamos. Courtesy/Mullen|Heller Architecture
Utility work has begun in preparation for a new Unitarian Church building, scheduled to break ground next spring. Photo by Richard Bolton
The Unitarian Church of Los Alamos is well on its way to building a new church on its current site on North Sage Street between the Latter-Day Saints and the Masonic Lodge.
Utility work begins this week, with trenches dug along North Sage, but at least one driveway to the church parking lot will be kept open at all times. The new building is designed by Mullen|Heller Architecture, who also designed the new Nature Center building and the White Rock Visitors Center. A Capital Campaign concluded in the spring of 2014 with the church raising $2.7 million for the project, and the architects have been hard at work over the summer refining the design to fit the budget. Additional fundraising is ongoing.
“I continue to be moved and astonished by the generosity of money and talent that the members of this congregation have demonstrated over the last several years,” Rev. John Cullinan said. “Our grasp has far exceeded what many experts had said was reasonably within our reach, and I think that is a testament to the positive effect this church community has had on the lives of its members over the last 60 years. We are now in a position to continue to create positive transformation in individual lives and in the larger community for the next sixty years and beyond.”
The congregation recently voted to move into the final stages of design for the new building, anticipating demolition of the current church in late spring of 2015. On the proposed project timeline, the new building will be ready for services in the fall of 2016.
The new church will retain the beautiful mountain view from the sanctuary, which will be located in approximately the same location on the lot as it is now. The sanctuary will increase in size from a current capacity of approximately 110 seats to 175, and will feature a beautiful sprung-wood floor to replace what many local dance groups call “the best floor in town.”
A large Fellowship Hall will be built on the south side of the new structure, and the offices and Sunday School classrooms will extend to the east as they do now. The playground will be updated, and a new garden and memorial grove area with a meditation path are planned.
The building will be one-story and fully accessible, and will offer many amenities for outside groups renting space for their activities. Additionally, green features such as all LED-lighting, space for photovoltaic cells on the roof to be installed in the future, and water collection over the whole site have been key components of the design.
The parking lot will be combined with the Masons’ lot next door, with a new driveway connecting the two. A new entrance will be aligned with Peach Street, with a service drive taking the place of the current entrance from 18th Street. The current entrance into the Masons’ lot near 15th Street will remain as is. The combined lot will feature enough parking to satisfy county requirements for maximum occupancy of both buildings.
The current building dates to the Manhattan Project, when it was built as one of two temporary dormitories separated by Tulip Street, which no longer exists. One of the founding members of the Unitarian Church, Lew Agnew, was a resident in the original dormitory. The church archives reveal a letter dated February of 1959 from the Zia Corporation regarding the congregation’s then lease on the building that states, “Consideration must be given to the fact that this building is a temporary war-time structure of the type being removed from the permanent townsite area as rapidly as possible and that it cannot remain on location indefinitely.”
Dale Arnink, Minister Emeritus after 24 years as the church pastor, observed, “Those early Unitarians left us a legacy so that we could make a home for religious liberalism far beyond ‘temporary’ and ‘indefinitely.’ We must now push beyond our limited resources as a small congregation to leave our own legacy to this community and coming generations of spiritual searchers.”