Solving Problems – For Good

Union Congregational UCC in St. Louis Park proposes creative solution to reduce expenses while addressing the community’s lack of affordable housing

“How about we do something good while we’re grappling with the budget?”

That was the question the Rev. Barbara Martin posed to the congregation at Union Congregational United Church of Christ in St. Louis Park. “Like many churches, we were having trouble balancing our budget and maintaining our facility,” says Martin. “So, we opened our minds and the Spirit got to work.”

This month, Union UCC announced its plans to partner with Project for Pride in Living (PPL) to build 80 units of affordable housing on the church’s two-acre site, with solar panels installed on the roof of the housing. As part of the transformative project, funds from the sale will be used to renovate the church’s narthex and sanctuary, add a stormwater pollinator garden, and replenish the church’s reserve fund.

The creative solution to both the church’s financial situation and the community’s need for affordable housing came after many months of research and discussions. The church formed a property team to explore options, including relocating or combining operations with another church. The church met with the City of St. Louis Park, which is eager for more affordable housing, especially in proximity to the light rail line under construction just a block from Union.

“This proposed project solves some aging building issues for the church, and it means our community will get vitally needed affordable housing for several levels of income,” Martin says. “We are also thinking about the church in new ways, as more of a community partner and destination, a place to come and sit and just be. We want to be in relationship with residents.” Martin says the congregation is discussing many ideas, including community art displays and spaces for community events and meetings.

The church will give up some of its parking lot and tear down its education wing to make it possible for PPL to build the four-stories of housing. Martin notes that the congregation is eager to be part of the excellent volunteer programs PPL offers once its buildings are occupied.

The Union UCC congregation meets February 23 to approve the memorandum of understanding and the purchase agreement with PPL. If all goes as planned, construction will begin in fall 2021, with units leased in fall 2022.

Learn more about Union UCC St. Louis Park at https://www.unionslp.com.

Read more about the project in a recent article in the St. Louis Park community newspaper.

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