Update from the Plaza Task Force

The Plaza Task Force is excited to announce that we will be working with cox graae + spack architects to develop a conceptual design for the plaza area and will begin discussions in January.  If that name sounds familiar, it’s because it is the firm that designed our current church building.

As you may recall, the Session established the Plaza Task Force in July to work with Sterling Thomas, Building and Facilities Manager, to define a vision for the use of the plaza that helps advance Western’s mission, devise an aesthetically pleasing solution for the ongoing waste problem (human waste, garbage, etc), and develop a plan to finance it. In September, the Session set the budget for the plaza project at $26,000, which was the cost of the estimate that Sterling secured for a gate to fence off the plaza earlier this year.

We reviewed proposals from three professional design firms and are still in discussion with Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center regarding the possibility our plaza could be used as a graduate student design project for the 2019 spring semester.  Cox graae + spack’s familiarity with Western and our history, the DC permit process, and a likely degree of professional pride in continuing this work with Western—especially as 2019 marks our 25th anniversary in our current location—greatly informed our decision.

The Task Force has several ideas for potential uses of the space, but we will rely on cox graae + spack to help us explore solutions that will meet the Session’s charge to the Task Force. Some benchmarks we have for the plaza is when it is:

  • An engaging, intentional, and inviting space that welcomes people in our neighborhood into the mission and ministry of Western
  • Serving a useful function, but adaptable and flexible
  • Connected to the church
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Financially feasible/cost effective and also sustainable in terms of staff and other resources
  • Free of the problems of misuse

Other concepts include considering how the potential use(s) of the space could align with the seasons – (e.g., weddings, movie screenings, musicians, fire pit gatherings, Christmas tree), how we could have displays on specific subject matter (gun violence prevention, homelessness, racism, art from Project Create and/or Miriam’s Kitchen), and ways to make the landscaping and lighting more attractive.  Meanwhile, as we consider how best to use our space, we are also reaching out to Miriam’s Kitchen to seek input into addressing problems with misuse while promoting positive use of the plaza as church space.

There will be an opportunity for the congregation to review and weigh in on the design proposal, likely early in the new year.  Until then, if you have any questions or comments, please contact Task Force co-chairs Susanne Ward (susanne.ward@emersonprep.org) or Rebecca Jackson (rjacks112@gmail.com), or members Jackie Escobar, Nancy Kiefer, Bill Saint, Sherry Trafford, Sterling Thomas, and Laura Cunningham.