God has given us a fantastic site in central Reading, one that allows us to play an active part in the life of the town centre and to serve the community. Our buildings are all the result of people, at different times, acting on a vision of what God was calling the church to be.
With the prospect of a new sense of vision for Greyfriars under David Walker’s leadership, the PCC agreed in mid 2016 that work on building options should re-start. In early March the Redevelopment Group presented the outline of an overall scheme to the PCC who agreed that this provided a good basis on which to consult the congregation as a whole. Details of the proposals can be found by clicking on this link:- Redevelopment Proposals.
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Questions and Answers. (This section will be updated on a regular basis to reflect the questions coming forward newest questions at the top)
What is the value and likely utilisation of the ‘co-working space’ in the new Centre?
This is a concept that is being used successfully elsewhere. We are still a long way off deciding details, but those using the space would pay a modest fee for use of the space with access to wifi and office support equipment. We would be aiming to attract both church and non-church users. The space could easily be turned to other uses if we so chose at some point.
Has enough space been allocated for the bookshop? Given the limited space at the Friar Street end of the site should we consider a larger bookshop elsewhere on the site in addition to the provision in the main atrium?
The current location of the bookshop in the Centre has long been seen as a major disadvantage, hence the aim in this scheme and the previous one to move it closer to Friar Street. Given planning restrictions we unfortunately have very little direct ‘frontage’ onto Friar Street, but we will be looking again at how best to use what space there is available for the bookshop. Thoughts and plans will develop as we move into the detailed design stage.
How will the space in the atrium between the church and Sackville St be used?
Predominantly we envisage this being a space for quiet conversations away from the bustle of the main atrium. However we are also looking at including a discreet space for mothers feeding babies, and some of the wall space will be needed for notice boards. Some bookshop display space may well be included.
Where will Youth ministry take place?
We have been talking to Dan Bright about this and may well opt to revise the proposals for the second floor of the new Centre to provide a specific Youth space.
What is the purpose of the kitchen in the new Centre?
The main kitchen is there to allow meals to be prepared for functions (such as Alpha) anywhere on the site, which might be the church, the hall of the new Centre, or one of the meeting rooms.
Are the Borough Council and/or the heritage organisations likely to accept such a big new ‘Centre’?
We won’t know for sure until we talk to them, but in discussions on the last scheme they were happy with the idea of quite a large new building provided that the main bulk of it was clearly separate from the church.
How does the scale of the proposed buildings compare with the previous scheme?
The space available for church staff and ministries is roughly half the area provided by the previous scheme. If you add the residential accommodation and the provision for partner organisations that takes it to about two-thirds the size (excluding the previous underground car-parking).
Couldn’t we just refurbish the Centre and West End?
Clearly it would be possible to do that, though we know the buildings have multiple problems and it is impossible to say how much a full refurbishment/refit might cost. But at the end of the day we would still be left with buildings ill-suited to our vision. The frontage onto Friar St would be as unwelcoming as ever. The bookshop and café would still be lost at the bottom of the car-park. The staff offices and meeting rooms would be fragmented across the Sackville St houses and the Centre. And we would have no scope to grow our own ministries or to support partner organisations.”
Would the Council support the provision of residential accommodation within the scheme?
We have met Councillor Tony Page (leader of the Planning Committee) to discuss the possible components of the scheme. He was very keen for us to make the best use of the site and to consider the inclusion of “low cost” housing to meet our staff’s future housing needs.
The provision for the bookshop seems much smaller than at present. Why is this?
The significant advantage of locating the bookshop much nearer to Friar Street and passing shoppers has to be balanced with the circulation and coffee bar space in the new atrium. Secure display space for materials is available around the walls and there could be free-standing displays as well – the area marked as ‘bookshop’ on the plans is for the till-point only.
Will there be a kitchen in the entrance atrium?
The proposal is that the coffee bar would serve most catering in that area, e.g. Sunday services and regular midweek events. It would be supplemented by the main kitchen as required.
Has any monetary value been ascribed to the residential accommodation above the New Centre?
No. Like the former Curate’s house at Prospect Street the proposed intern space and the apartments are conceived to provide low cost housing to help support future ministry and are intended to remain in the ownership and control of the church.
Could the extent of the residential accommodation be reduced to cut costs?
The residential component of the new centre uses all the available airspace above the new ministry and shared work space areas and is the most cost effective way to provide new low cost housing to support future ministry. The extent of this accommodation could be reduced however and the consultation process offers the opportunity for us to hear from God as to the level of investment we should make in such accommodation.