New Village Church project under way

Sanctuary will accommodate the growing congregation

Don MacNeil can see the future as clear as a hand bell ringing. The Village Community Presbyterian Church elder knows in 18 months he'll be sitting in his church's brand new sanctuary. And he can't wait.

MacNeil and fellow congregation members are excited that a project about four years in the making is finally happening. Construction kicked off in December on the Rancho Santa Fe church's revamp.

The expansion was deemed critical for a congregation that kept on growing, choir members crowded shoulder to shoulder singing at service on Sunday and members looking to the church to provide them a sense of community.

"It's not often you look forward to going to church on Sunday," member Tom Taylor said. "The Village Church has kind of become the focal point of our whole social program. We love it here."

The Village Church has a congregation just shy of 1,200 people and attendance grew in 2008 by about 5 percent, said Bill Smith, church administrator.

Despite the current economic climate Smith said people have been generous, so far pledging $7.9 million toward the construction process. developers have waited so long," she said.

She likened it to facing an army invasion and letting them in just because their fight was so hard and long.

"The feelings of the community deserve some consideration," Woolley said, to the applause of the audience.

Planning process

Since its time with the Art Jury, the Lilian project has evolved and been scaled down. Planned for the corner of Avenida de Acacias and El Tordo where a parking lot now sits, the Lilian will include five residential units, 4,070 feet of commercial space and meandering paseos through the buildings. The project will also feature a three-level underground parking facility with 62 spaces.

The design stays true to the village character with simple architectural details and tile roofs.

The board praised the developers and architects for working with them and taking their advice.

But the reaction of the 40-member audience to the project was mostly negative. Most agreed they liked the design - it's the disruption of construction that has residents concerned.

'Enormous' project

Most of the heavy work will be in excavating the parking garage, said Allard Jansen of the Allard Jansen Architecture firm behind the project.

He said it would take 41 days to complete the excavation of dirt, which breaks down to 40 trucks a day and five trucks an hour.

Director Steve Shillington debated those numbers. He contended that it would take 68 days, 10 trips an hour just to get the hole dug out. He said it would then take about a month to deliver the concrete, at 4.7 trips an hour.

"This is an enormous project for this tiny little town," Shillington said.

Residents expressed worry about the dirt and noise, whether the rumble of excavations could damage adjacent buildings and whether businesses would survive the two-year construction process.

The need for the project was also questioned, as was its viability.

"We're in a recession and here we are building this project, trying to sell expensive condos and full retail spaces when people are going out of business everyday," resident Jinny Martin said. "Are we insane?"

People also wondered about the wear and tear on the village streets, some of which are mainly residential and 80 years old.

   
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