Nearly three years have passed since the night Westport Presbyterian became a pyre.
No bodies burned in the conflagration, but spirits certainly were dampened as members watched the spray of fire hoses play amid the stone walls of the 107-year-old church.
Now the rebuilding process has begun; Westport Presbyterian hopes to reopen its doors next summer at 201 Westport Road.
With the aid of consultant Gordon Wood, BNIM Architects were chosen for the reconstruction, in large part because of the company’s ties to the neighborhood and reputation for green design.
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“There are challenges to building today that weren’t addressed in the early 20th century. We use sustainable building practices because we are conscious of our impact on the environment in our city,” said Erik Heitman of BNIM, project architect.
Modern amenities in the design include green roofs and multiple rain gardens, with the latter providing stormwater runoff relief.
“We felt BNIM really cared about Westport. Some of the architects live in Westport. One of them even had kids in our day care center,” the Rev. Scott Myers said.
The Dec. 29, 2011, fire was deemed an accident caused by a worker employed by A.B. May Co. of Leawood. The rebuild has taken so long in part because of resulting litigation.
Myers credited Kansas City law firm Polsinelli with helping navigate his church’s legal issues in the wake of the blaze. The congregation meets at Vila of Kansas City, 4120 Baltimore Ave.
The $11 million reconstruction project, carried out by A.L. Huber General Contractors, will preserve the outer stone walls of the main building and sanctuary. The adjacent community center wing of the building will be replaced.
“The new church is a building reverent to the history of Westport Presbyterian, but also a dynamic, modern building that reflects the spirit of the Westport community the church is a part of,” said Heitman.
Myers, pastor of the church since 1994, said the roots of the church have been entwined in Westport for nearly two centuries.
“We saved those exterior walls essentially to preserve a continuity with the past,” he said.
A church focused on outreach, Westport Presbyterian has been able to continue running many of its service programs out of Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1700 Westport Road.
“We wanted our building design to acknowledge the most important values of the church’s ministry and help continue their legacy,” Heitman said.
The new community wing will allow for even more outreach once completed, Myers said.
“The building is going to be turned in such a way and brought out to the street and built in such a way so as to be much more of a community resource.”
Derek Cowsert, an intern for The Star, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.