Landmark church expanding
Venice Presbyterian Church received the city’s blessing Tuesday to proceed with a $2.3 million renovation project.
The Venice Planning Commission approved a site plan amendment to expand the church sanctuary and a special exception petition to reconfigure its parking lot on the 7.8-acre site.
The grass parking lot will be redrawn to include a new access point on the north side for more efficient traffic flow, and increase the number of spaces by 42.
The majority of existing shell parking will be replaced with grass surface, according to documents filed with the city.
New dry retention ponds will help the flood-prone parking lot. Church attendance suffered in the past during downpours.
Within the past month two vehicles had front-end collisions and a pedestrian fell and broke her nose in the parking area, said David Fouche, construction manager and church member, who represented Venice Presbyterian at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
He said the tall pines and layout contribute to the parking lot confusion. A number of mature pines, some damaged, will be removed to ease the congestion.
No additional congregation seating is proposed in the church renovation project. The existing sanctuary will be expanded by 3,522 square feet, increasing ancillary areas to include a new narthex, or lobby, covered entrances, chapel, dressing room, parent room and a larger music room to accommodate its choir and hold small concerts.
The proposed addition is consistent with the existing structure at 24 feet in height.
A smaller chapel with seating for 100 will be added to accommodate the 50 or so memorial services held each year.
“This has been a longtime vision of its members,” said Fouche.
The church has a long and rich history. Built as a drive-in church in 1953, some of its members appeared in Life Magazine in 1955 listening to services via speakers attached to their automobiles.
Sarasota architect Victor Lundy received a national merit award for the modern-style sanctuary, converted into a chapel in 1965.
Interior remodeling was done in 2006.
Several years ago the church’s board considered locating outside of Venice, but changed its mind, and two years ago began planning in earnest to renovate the existing campus.
In the past month new audio-video technology, stained-glass lighting and cameras were added for live feeds, and a new sprinkler system was installed.
“It’s been very well received,” Fouche said.
Construction is expected to begin on the parking lot in January. The entire project should be complete in time to celebrate the church’s 60th anniversary next year, Fouche said.