New Hope Presbyterian Church, which once sat in the thick of congestion near the Shallowford Road entrance to Hamilton Place, is ready to show off its new space in a residential area about a mile east.
The 75-member Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation moved into the new building at 7608 Shallowford Road in June. An open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, complete with door prizes and ice cream, will acquaint visitors with the new sanctuary, fellowship spaces, offices, classrooms and playground.
The former property, at 7301 Shallowford Road, was sold to DDC Hotels Inc., which has long floated plans to build a Drury Plaza Hotel on the site. The company received approval for rezoning the property last year.
The Rev. Candace Worth, pastor since 2016, said the church's debut would have happened sooner, but the Easter 2020 tornadoes demolished their intended destination.
"We had to do a new build," she said. "The existing structure blew away."
Formerly home to the First Assembly of God, the property included "an old stick-built sanctuary and a couple of outbuildings," Worth said.
Everything except a concrete shed was a total loss, including the sanctuary where the church had planned to hold services during the construction of a new church elsewhere on the property.
"The walls blew out, and the roof fell in," Worth said. "So instead of moving in, we had to get all of that cleaned up before we could start our new building. It delayed our move by a few months [from May of 2020 to June of 2021]."
Officials with DDC Hotels allowed the congregation to continue to meet in its old location until the new sanctuary was completed.
"We have so much praise for that company," said Marilyn Suber, a church member for 17 years. "They've been absolutely wonderful."
In other faith news:
* Chattanooga Clergy for Justice will hold a meeting about public safety in Hamilton County at 5 p.m. Saturday at Orchard Park Seventh-day Adventist Church, 951 N. Orchard Knob Ave. Seating is limited to 100 people, and masks are required. Register at OrchardParkChurch.org/town-hall. Read a story about the meeting in Monday’s Times Free Press.
Worth said New Hope used its insurance settlement to clear the debris on the new site. It financed the build with the $5.55 million it was paid for the old church, one of the few remaining non-commercial sites around Hamilton Place. The mall and its related parcels cover about 200 acres, and the area around Interstate 75, Shallowford Road and Gunbarrel Road has seen explosive growth since the mall opened in August 1987.
The new church was designed by Rardin & Carroll Architects of Chattanooga and built by Tyson & Associates Construction, based in Ringgold, Georgia.
"Although we did not have previous ties to New Hope Presbyterian, we are a company of Christ followers who have an ultimate goal of reflecting him through our work," said James Tyson, CEO and president of the construction company.
Worth said members focused on overcoming some of the original church's limitations to enhance their outreach in the new location.
"It's much more ADA accessible," she said, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act. "The layout is all on one level."
They've also added a kitchen and other accommodations for community organizations that meet there, such as Girl Scouts and 12-step groups.
The community mindfulness extends beyond the church walls as well. Members are evaluating options for the surrounding land.
"Eventually we'd like to have some trails on those 5 acres," Worth said. "Maybe a prayer garden and things like that."
She has noticed that the neighborhood's younger residents have used some of the land for pickup soccer games.
"So they may not want us to put trails in," she said, laughing. "But that's what we want, for people to feel comfortable that this is a place for them."
Worth said "just getting on the other side of Gunbarrel has made a difference" in giving the church the neighborhood feel it had when it was founded almost 50 years ago.
"This is where God is calling us to be," she said.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281.