Posted in projects on November 30, 2017 11:29 am EST

Major Transformation Planned for Downtown Charlotte Church

North Carolina's Sharon United Methodist in slated to become the spiritual anchor of SouthPark, a mixed-use community plan that's taking shape.

Renderings courtesy of GFF.











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TAGS: architectural design, church, community connection, master planning, mixed-use development,


By Keith Loria

Sharon United Methodist Church was originally constructed in the mid-1960s, five miles south of downtown Charlotte, N.C., in an area called SouthPark. The building was considered a landmark in the area, and was known for its distinctive “ski slope’ shaped roof.

“When it was built, nothing was there and the city grew up around them,” says Stephen Pickard, principal at GFF Inc., an architectural firm in Dallas that was recently hired to transition the church into a new building. “They are across the street from the SouthPark Mall; there’s a vibrant business scene and plenty of residential, and its land has increased in value significantly over time.”

GFF worked alongside consultant Cool Solutions Group of Charlotte on the project.

Smart investing

The land value is one of the reasons that the church hired developer Childress Klein of Atlanta and GFF to demolish its existing space and create an 8.6-acre mixed-use property that would include up to 490 residential units, a 175-room hotel, up to 170,000 square feet of commercial space, a senior living component and up to 20,000 square feet of indoor recreation space for a fitness facility. In addition, the new church facility would contain approximately 750 seats.

The contemporary worship space is designed in what [Architect Stephen] Pickard describes as a “House of Blues” format, with a balcony and lower level containing movable seating.

“The church was looking to rebrand itself as a church and decided to place the church right in the middle of this whole mixed-use development,” Pickard reports. “It’s both a contemporary and traditional worship venue with typical education spaces for youth and adults. Plus, there’s gathering space on the second floor, which sits on top of retail.”

The contemporary worship space is designed in what Pickard describes as a “House of Blues” format, with a balcony and lower level containing movable seating.

“They can bring in tables and do a dining event or dinner theater,” he notes. “Meanwhile, the second level has fixed theater seating.”

High functioning

Pickard further describes the design as being straightforward and honest, with nothing glitzy or artificial. It’s open, accessible and utilizes inexpensive materials that are durable and easily maintained.

Kyle Thompson, senior pastor of Sharon United Methodist Church, says the idea is to “knock down these buildings to build up the kingdom of God,” becoming a place where the sacred and the secular intersect.

Sacred + secular

Pickard notes that a church transitioning to a mixed-use property is a trend that he’s seeing more of in the 21st century.

“I think on some level, churches are trying to level their financial assets, which in a lot of cases is land. A lot of them are land rich, cash poor, and looking for ways that will benefit them,” he says. “Not that I think it was the motivation in this case—the church was interested in becoming a crossroads for the community, and they are doing just that.”

Too often, churches are like islands, physically disconnected from the neighborhoods they are serving. Sharon United Methodist Church did not want to be thought of in that way.

“One of the things we are trying to accomplish in our work is creating more physical connections between churches and communities,” Pickard says. “In this case, the church will sit right in the middle of the community with no boundaries. They will host concerts, plays and different kinds of things. The hotel nearby will use it as a meeting venue as well. It will be a church for all.”

The new mixed-use development is expected to be complete by 2020, and Pastor Thompson hopes that those who will eat, shop, work or live near the reborn church will stop in and worship there.





Learn more about the companies in this story:

Good Fulton and Farrell (GFF) Church Works Studio


Cool Solutions Group


Childress Klein



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