Partners for Sacred Places worked with local community leaders and residents to find new uses for three significant historic churches in Johnstown, PA
Many denominations are faced with closing churches as congregations shrink and resources are scarce. Civic leaders often desire that closed sacred places remain assets in the community. While more creative solutions to adapting sacred places to new uses are being created throughout the country, and the process is often a challenge, the adaptive reuse of these historic icons can catalyze civic pride and support local economic and cultural development. In Johnstown, PA, Partners guided the collaborative process to reimagine and reuse three important, historic sacred places that were threatened with demolition.
In the Cambria City neighborhood of Johnstown, PA, Partners for Sacred Places is working with local community leaders and residents to find new uses for three significant historic churches - St. Columba’s, Ss. Casimir and Emerich, and Immaculate Conception – that were closed in 2009 after five parishes were merged into one by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
With funding raised through Save Our Steeples and the Johnstown Regional Partnership, Partners was retained to help lead the planning process, together with the Johnstown Area Heritage Association and the EADS Group. The months leading up to the charette centered on forming a steering committee to help carry work forward after its conclusion.
Over the weekend of November 18th to 20th, more than 100 members of the community turned out to tour the churches and brainstorm ideas for new uses. Suggestions included performing arts venues, an indoor rock-climbing studio, and a conservatory and restaurant – to name just a few. Architects who attended each session then created renderings of several re-use ideas.
UPDATE, January 2012: Ownership of the three closed churches was recently transferred to the Steeples Project, a newly formed, local non-profit that will oversee the care of the properties as well as raise funds to redevelop them. Read more in this article from the Tribune-Democrat.
UPDATE, August 2012: Preservation Pennsylvania awarded the Steeples Project the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Annual Theme Award for their work to “raise the funds necessary to purchase, maintain, and redevelop these wonderful historic resources and enhance Johnstown’s quality of life.” Read more about the project and award in this press release.