On Sunday mornings at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, traffic inside can seem almost as bad as on the roads used to get there.
While church members can’t do much to solve Dallas thoroughfares and expressways, they have plans for improving the flow inside for those headed to worship and Bible study.
The Campus Vision plan calls for adding 35,000 square feet and renovating the 190,000-square-foot site. On the west block, 1.5 acres of open landscape will sit above a 350-spot underground parking lot.
Additions include an open central gathering area, new children and student areas, and more classrooms, offices, and meeting rooms. Renovations will address overall flow with new lighting, windows, and other updates.
The Rev. Bryan Dunagan, the senior pastor, said changes would allow room (literally) for the 91-year-old church’s congregation and impact in the community to grow.
“All this work … as we look at the next 90 years, it’s all about how do we continue to be this light, or this beacon, for the city of Dallas and beyond?” Dunagan said.
The Gothic Revival structure, designed by famed architect Mark Lemmon in the 1920s, serves as a hub for nearly 5,000 members and numerous clubs, nonprofit organizations, and support groups.
On Sundays, hallways mimic big-city traffic congestion as large volumes of members and visitors try to squeeze through narrow doorways and paths to the sanctuary or gathering places. Bible studies, counseling programs, weekly Boy Scout meetings, and community ministries keep the campus full every day of the week.
Dunagan recalled his job interview with the church, when he had to fold his children’s two-seat stroller to get through the doorway.
“Can you imagine that?” said Clay Sell, church elder and Campus Vision team moderator. “We’re trying to recruit this young pastor with twins, and he can hardly move his double strollers through the building.”
Obstruction is even more prevalent when it comes to parking. For member Lisa Wilkins, it takes a lot of work to get her family to church.
“Every single Sunday we have to park two blocks away . . . whether it’s hot or cold . . . and get them all into church. We do it, and we’re happy to do it, but it’s challenging.”
Alleviating problems like these are a priority.
“We’re this neighborhood church on the doorstep of a university in the heart of a city,” Dunagan said. “We don’t want there to be a barrier to anyone who wants to be a part of this church.”
HPPC will work with the city of University Park, architects, and contractors to finalize plans.
The budget, which was not disclosed, will be funded primarily through member gifts. Construction is expected to begin by summer 2018 and take two to three years.