By Lawton Vallely
For the Opelika Observer
Construction of a new children’s education center for First Presbyterian Church of Opelika is slated to begin at the site previously occupied by two historic district homes adjacent to the former location of Papa Joe’s Bar-B-Q.
The property, located at the intersection of Second Avenue and 10th Street, was purchased by FPCO in 2017 with a plan to relocate the two homes. As options were explored, FPCO Church Elder Bill Price said demolition appeared to be the only option.
“We did everything we possibly could to make sure that it was possible to remove them and take them to a place where they could be restored,” Price said. “We wanted that to happen. We tried twice and both of those groups were unable to financially make it work, so that’s how we came to that decision.”
According to an exemption passed by the Opelika City Council in 2001, churches within the city’s historic districts of downtown, Geneva Street and Northside are not required to seek consent from the Opelika Historic Preservation Commission for demolishing buildings.
Price said the decision to build an education center and expand church parking was based on the continual growth of young membership the church has added during the last eight years.
“Our Sunday attendance is with both services in the 450 to 500 range,” Price said. “We have the largest number of children attending the church that we have ever had in the church’s 150-year history. We have children in every nook and cranny.”
Features of the education center will include new Sunday School classrooms, an expanded nursery, a playground and covered walkways. While the church is designing a space to accommodate its growth in younger members, they also hope to beautify the intersection in the process.
“We want to make sure that we make that corner as attractive as we possibly can,” Price said. “It is a focal point in the community and is a prominent intersection in Opelika. We want to provide for a green buffer zone from the corner to go as far back as possible before we have any parking. The new building will look just like the existing buildings so that they blend well.”
FPCO is located at 900 2nd Ave. in downtown Opelika.