They’ve agreed to sell their current church to make way for a new shopping center, and on Sunday, members of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church voted overwhelmingly to try to move to the east end of town.
The congregation votedÂ 131-2 to buy a 4.6-acre site in front of the Joe L. Evins Federal Building, home of the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office. The plot is beside Summit Medical on Laboratory Road.
But they haven’t closed on the deal yet, the church’s minister,Â Rev. Jake B. Morrill, said Monday morning. In a press release Monday afternoon, members of the Church’s Relocation Steering Committee said the due diligence process is not complete, and a closing date hasnâ€™t been set.
Assuming the deal is completed, the next step would be to design a building. The church said it is working with an architect â€œto begin a congregation-wide process to design a new church using a sustainable, green design for the new facility and preservation of as much of the existing park-like setting of the parcel as possible.â€
Church members expect to be in their new home by Thanksgiving 2014.
Congregation membersÂ voted overwhelminglyÂ in September to sell their current building and 3.6 acres to make way for a new Kroger Marketplace shopping center that could open in 2014. They said at the time that they would have two years to move.
Spokeswoman Jo Ann Garrett said then the church could close on the sale between November and April. The church declined to disclose a sales price for theÂ heavily used property, a serene, wooded tract in the heart of Oak Ridge.
The current property could be used as outparcels, or small lots, at the new $30 million shopping center. Located on two dozen acres at the busy intersection of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue, theÂ new shopping centerÂ would stretch east to Robertsville Road, where the church is now located.
ORUUC has been located on the corner of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Robertsville Road since 1956.
“Throughout this process, I have been most proud of two things,â€ said Morrill, ORUUC minister since 2003.Â â€œThe first is our congregation’s ability to move through a democratic process in a healthy, loving way. Â The second is to hear, over and over, a desire to use this opportunity to minister to the wider community of Oak Ridge even more in the future than we have over the last 61 years. This is a congregation with a heart for service.â€