Work is scheduled to begin later this month on construction of a new £2.4million community hub at Carnmoney Presbyterian Church.
The ambitious project, which has been several years in the planning, will involve the demolition of the Greenmount Hall, Lecture Hall and Minor Hall, and the construction of a new state-of-the-art community facility connected to the existing church.
The new building will be significantly larger than the existing halls complex and will feature a sports hall, a cafe area/social centre, a child-friendly space, meeting/counselling rooms, a kitchen, reception area, toilets and staff accommodation. The existing vehicle entrances/exits and car parking will also be reconfigured as part of the 50-week project.
Initially the plan had been to replace the old youth centre on Ballyduff Road. However, as the church’s youth and community outreach work has grown, so has the need for new facilities to enable it to continue to increase its presence in the community through initiatives such as youth projects, debt counselling services and the Newtownabbey Foodbank.
“We have no space at the moment because in the last 10 years all of our youth work has grown so substantially - it has really bucked the trend,” the church’s minister, Rev John Dickinson, explained.
“All of our work has grown and really outgrown what we have at present.”
He continued: “The whole scheme is designed around making our presence felt in the community, knocking down the buildings that hide who we are, getting the walls down so that people can see in, being more visible to the community and hopefully having the kind of premises that the community might want to use.”
Directed by their Congregational Strategy, church leaders looked at several different options, including extending and improving the existing halls, but eventually opted for the £2.4m new build project.
And while Rev Dickinson knows that not everyone in the congregation is supportive of spending so much money on redeveloping the halls, he believes the church can’t simply stand still and must invest for the future.
“It’s a massive undertaking and a big step to make a decision to spend this kind of money and do this kind of work, but I think for many of us we have just been talking about this for so long we just need now to get it done. And it will provide huge benefits for our work in all sorts of ways and improve many of the services to the community that we are currently offering,” he added.
Rev Dickinson is hoping that workers will be on-site by the end of May and that construction will be complete by summer 2016.