Narberth’s Oldest (and Long-Vacant) Church Could See a Mixed-Use Revival
Sitting right across from Narberth Train Station and just minutes from the borough’s downtown on foot, the former Baptist Church of the Evangel awaits a potential mixed-use revival that would include 4,500 square feet of office space and four two-bedroom apartments.
According to the Main Line Times’ Cheryl Allison, Bala Cynwyd-based Speciality Audit Services is eyeing up the landmark structure (its original section was built circa 1891) for its offices, with plans to keep the existing basketball court as “recreational space for the office employees,” while converting other sections of the stone building into residential units.
During its time as a church, the building claimed two rows of twelve pews able to hold 200 people, stained glass windows, slate flooring, carved wooden doors, and a cathedral wood ceiling, according to the property’s LoopNet listing. Additionally, the structure contained a Sunday School wing with classrooms on two floors, two pastor’s offices, and a social room.
Per Allison, SAS principal Jason Gordon says there are plans to renovate the interior, which has deteriorated over time, and leave the exterior as is. However, the stained glass, a detail noted as “likely of little value,” would be replaced. During last week’s informational presentation before Narberth’s planning commission and local residents, architect Dave Brawer said the apartments would range “from just under 900 to 1,500 square feet.”
While this might be an enticing offer, especially since its been vacant for years, Allison reports parking concerns were raised during the meeting: like similar properties in the area, the former Baptist church at 198 Elmwood Street does not offer off-street parking. In answer to this, Brawer presented possible solutions, along with an analysis of on-street parking in the area:
…in addition to the 11 on-site spaces, an option is being proposed to add some on-street spaces. On the church side of Elmwood Avenue, street parking could be “indented” into the lot within the borough right-of-way for four spaces. By shifting the travel lane of Elmwood Avenue slightly, Brawer said perhaps five spaces could be added on the north side of the street, where no parking is currently permitted.
Residents, however, pointed out how parking on Elmwood is already tight and the parking analysis was done during the summer, when parking is not at its peak since school is out.
Allison writes that should the proposal move forward, “some significant zoning relief” would be required.