The First United Methodist Church (FUMC) will be going before the Historic Preservation Advisory Board on Thursday, May 6th to seek approval to demolish the post office on Lamar Street to make way for a new expansion. The meeting will be at 5:30pm in City Council Chambers on North Tennessee Street.
From what I understand, the FUMC purchased the post office a few months ago with the intention of renovating it for use in the expanding needs of the church. Unfortunately, it has turned out that the building is in pretty bad shape and the cost to renovate the building for use by the church would cost as much as building a new building.
According to Alan Heath, the Executive Director for the FUMC, the church’s intention is to “build a new building in the same architectural style as the current campus, either on the site of the post office or across the street to the south”. They do not have any more information on specific plans because they cannot do anything unless and until they receive city approval.
The picture of the post office above is taken from the south, looking north, so that would mean that the new building would be built either where the post office stands or in place of the parking lot that can be seen in the foreground of the photo. Of course, the mention of a “parking lot” tends to make residents nervous because that tends to create a “dead space” when it is not in use and brings traffic and its related noise closer to homes when it is in use. Understandably, some residents are watching the situation closely. The existing parking lot backs up on the downtown square businesses. Moving the parking lot across the street would put it in close proximity to residences.
This is not the best picture I have of the First United Methodist Church but it is the best one that shows some of the past additions on the edges. It does give a reasonable, if not good, idea of what is meant by “the same architectural style”. While there was across-the-board enthusiasm about the renovation of the post office, I don’t know if the originally planned renovations would have made the building appear architecturally congruent with the church.
Some residents object to the building being demolished on the grounds that the building has historical significance. Built in 1958, the building is believed to be the only commercial building built in McKinney during the Eisenhower presidency (1953-1961). It is also believed that US Congressman Ray Roberts had his office located in this post office.
Some residents support the demolition if that means a new building will be built to look like the existing church on the site of the demolished post office. Demolition to replace with a parking lot may very likely create more opponents.
There are still many scenarios that are unknown. What will happen if the application is not approved? Will the building still be renovated? Is there any possibility that the church would back out entirely if the only course of action is renovation? Each scenario will have a long-lasting impact on this portion of the district. Here, the downtown area merges with the historic residential area. More and more houses have been snatched up and renovated in this immediate area. Both Jared and The Bungalow Company have built new specialty homes within a few blocks. On some streets, such as Church, the “revival” is almost complete, with almost all homes completely renovated.
People who feel strongly about this issue are invited to contact the members of the HPAB with their comments. I have no way of protecting their e-mail addresses so I will not post in this post but they are available on the city site. Click here to go to the official HPAB city site. You will find the board member’s names at the bottom of the page. Click on them to get their e-mail addresses.
I have tried to keep my personal bias out of this (probably not very well) but I do have my own thoughts. I have written to the HPAB in support of the church’s application. I would applaud a renovation of the existing building but I think it is unreasonable to require the use of the older building given the cost. Personally, I think the post office is visually unappealing while the church’s buildings are very attractive. I would actually prefer the church building a new structure where the current post office stands. I don’t like the idea of moving the parking lot north. That would give me pause. The one scenario that concerns me the most is the building being vacant and not maintained. I would take any scenario over that.
We already have an example of that over on Davis Street. I have always loved this building. I took this picture 8 or 9 years ago. Trust me, it has not gotten better with time. Recently, a great shot of one of the entry ways was on McKinney Daily Photo with the caption, “Ruins”. This building has its own story which does not, could not, resemble the situation with the Lamar post office. It looms large, though, in my mind. It is a worst-case scenario. It is part of the reason why any scenario that doesn’t involve sitting vacant is preferable to me.
I encourage you to put your two cents in with the HPAB.