A historic church in the heart of Parramatta is to be redeveloped as a multi-purpose complex that expands the Parramatta Mission and the Uniting Church in Australia’s presence in the city. The redevelopment will also house new residential, commercial, and retail spaces and involve the reinstatement of the church’s spire. Once the tallest in Parramatta at 43 meters, the spire was removed after being irreparably damaged by a lightning strike in 1919. Architecture practice Turner has been commissioned to produce a stage-one design proposal for the project.
The redevelopment will comprise both renovation and modernization works to the church and the complete redevelopment of adjoining buildings owned by the church. The redevelopment will result in a complex that will house not only religious operations, but also two new buildings flanking the church – a 19-story, predominantly residential building east of the church and 13-story commercial and retail building to the west. Competitions may be held for the design of these buildings at a later date.
Leigh Memorial Church, built in 1885, is sited on Macquarie Street at the fringe of the intensive development area concentrated on Parramatta Square. Turner Associate Director Annraoi Morris said that, while the scale of the proposed buildings flanking the church may seem “large,” they are “really quite humble” when compared to the size of the buildings being produced in Parramatta Square. “It’s almost like we had to defend the site.”
The church’s primary concern was that the church and the facilities around it are presented as open and welcoming to the street. Morris said that, in light of this direction, a particular focus for the architects was on ensuring that the design was “fine-grain,” with laneways wrapping around the church that connect to nearby streets and public spaces, including the new civic building on Parramatta Square designed by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture, DesignInc, and Lacoste and Stevenson. The church is currently directly abutted on all sides apart from its street frontage.
“The church is at the center of the scheme, and revealing it is very important. Reactivating the church and its purpose was a particular concern of the mission,” Morris explained.
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