Beginning July 11, the Woodstock City Council will have its meetings at The Chambers at City Center, the former 1913 sanctuary of the Woodstock Community Church.
The city will have an open house at 5 p.m. July 11 and the dedication ceremony will start at 6:30 p.m. The council will have its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. that night. City leaders are inviting all pastors who preached at the former sanctuary to attend the ceremony.
In June 2009, the city abandoned and later razed the Woodstock Municipal Complex in the downtown area because of foundation issues and a desire to expand the city park. With a commitment to return, the city purchased the church and its property for $3.7 million that same month.
Council members began having meetings at the Woodstock City Hall Annex off Highway 92, where city government offices are housed.
In October 2010, the council approved a contract with Cablik Enterprises for $399,000 to renovate the church’s sanctuary.
Mayor Donnie Henriques said he and the council has always been mindful of how important moving meetings back downtown has been for some of its residents.
The move, he added, will give a chance for the city’s downtown residents the ability to once again walk to City Council meetings.
He also said the move shows the council’s consistent nature of acting on its desires.
“I think this shows that if we say we are going to do something, we follow through,” he said.
The church sits on about four acres and includes three buildings. One is the sanctuary built in 1913, the second includes a newer sanctuary, a fellowship hall and office space, and the third is used for storage. The newer sanctuary currently is leased from the city by the Elm Street Arts for its performances and operations.
The roughly 3,000-square-foot sanctuary for council meetings seats 125 people, City Manager Jeff Moon said.
The city decided to name the new meeting space after former Mayor Evelyn Chambers, who was elected in 1983.
The chambers could be available to rent as early as Aug. 1, but Moon said the space is geared more toward “civic uses and fixed rentals, as opposed to casual rentals.”
Along with the sanctuary, the city would like to renovate the remaining portion of the church to use as its future City Hall.
Moon said he won’t speculate a target date for getting that process off the ground.
Councilman Chris Casdia, who has been vocal about the importance of the city moving its meetings back into Olde Towne, said he is “delighted” to see the meetings return to downtown. He also said he couldn’t wait until the open house and the council’s first meeting.
“This is a great first step in the right direction in moving city services back to downtown Woodstock,” he said.