By Brandon Fuller

Development in Southwest has come in the form of new restaurants, retail, theater and a sports venue. By the end of 2013, one new project could bring a church, apartment building, coffee shop, community center and outdoor gathering space.

This ambitious effort is the redevelopment of the St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on the vacant lot at the corner of M Street and Delaware Avenue. Once complete, the development will feature 220 apartments in a high-rise building modeled after the architectural style unique to Southwest’s residential buildings. The apartment building will feature modern amenities like a screening room and gym. Although most of the apartments will rent at market prices, at least 10 precent of the units will be affordable as prescribed by the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process. However, St. Matthew’s hopes that these units can be targeted for firefighters, police officers, teachers and others who serve our community but struggle to afford sky-high Washington prices.

The apartment building acts as an economic engine for construction of the community center and church. The community center, which will be named the Thurgood and Cecelia Marshall Southwest Community Center, is a flexible space that will serve many needs in Southwest. Computer and multimedia facilities will be used for after-school learning opportunities and adult education. There will be a coffee shop for social gatherings like book clubs or concerts.

St. Matthews has a longtime partnership with Arena Stage and is appreciative of their support of the new project and the assistance they will provide to design the new sanctuary in a manner that will allow it to host drama and musical
performances. The church building itself provides ample, sacred space for meditation and spiritual reflection.
Inside, the community will find unique architectural artistic renderings inspired by the theology of baptism and the concept of renewal.

Colored cut glass from the previous St. Matthews building has been preserved and will be used in the new structure. A courtyard with a communal seating area, reflecting pool and garden will connect the unique stacked-stone church building to the community center.

Pastor Huber views the new circular-shaped church as a continuation of the unique architectural approach St. Matthews took with its former building. The circular style stands in contrast to the square buildings throughout Southwest and
acts as an anchor on the southeast corner of the neighborhood; Arena Stage’s circular structure anchors the northwest corner.

St. Matthews submitted its formal PUD paperwork at the beginning of the summer. Pastor Huber is hoping for a formal ANC hearing on the plans later this fall. Over the course of next year, St. Matthews will be working with the Zoning Commission in anticipation of a late 2012 construction start date.

Overall, Pastor Huber views the project as more than a St. Matthews renovation.

“We are building this for the community so that every line drawn in this $4.4 million plan is drawn to serve Southwest.”

If you would like to help the redevelopment of St. Matthews, you are encouraged to write a letter of support to the Zoning Commission.

For more information on that process, contact Pastor Huber at stmatthewsdc@hughes.net.

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