Will St. Michael's Episcopal Church Be Torn Down to Build a Walgreen's?
A landmark church in Northwest Gainesville might be torn down and replaced with a Walgreen's.
St. Michael's Episcopal Church was designed in the seventies by Nils M. Schweizer, a student of the famous architect Frank Loyd Wright.
And some members of the community are fighting to save what they consider a spiritual and architectural treasure.
St. Michael's Episcopal Church is a mid-century modern building featuring a column-less design. It's home to a congregation of about 100 people and the idea of it being torn down is very upsetting to some long time community and church members.
Susan Halbert has been a member of the church for 15 years. She said, "To tear down a beautiful church to put another drugstore was a real disappointment to me."
Bishop Samuel Johnson Howard of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida made the announcement last month that a contingent contract had been signed with Walgreen's to sell the property.
Halbert said, "It would be futile to speculate on why he made this decision, but for me personally it's a devestating thing." Some church members are struggling with the idea of losing the building they consider they're spiritual home.
Jote Thompson said, "To lose this...I can't imagine it being replaced."
Annemieke Pronker-Coron is a musician at St Michael's, who is protesting the sale of the church to Walgreen's because of it's cultural significance.
Pronker-Coron said, "There's a church that is of incredible cultural and architectural value to this city, it makes Gainesville better."
Nils M. Schweizer's work, including St. Michael's is the focus of preservation efforts because it's one of a kind. Kevin Schweizer said, "I think people don't realize the uniqueness of these spaces until they're gone." John Kaiser said, "The fact that people travel and leave our country to visit other places to absorb that history which architecture plays such an important part of is probably a good reason for us to promote preservation within our community. So that we will have some history for people to appreciate in the future."
Bishop Howard said the sale will be in the best interest of the church because they need a newer facility to house the church and school. But those who want to save St. Michael's are hoping the necessary permitting for Walgreen's to build on the property will be denied.
Pronker-Coron said, "I do not understand exactly why our community would let that happen. Sort of let it be defaced because there's so many corners that see Walgreen's and CVS."
Walgreen's has not submitted a proposal to the City of Gainesville.
But if and when they do, it will be up to the City Planning Committee and Commissioners to grant Walgreen's the re-zoning and permits necessary to build on St. Michael's land.
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