UCO shares plans for church property
EDMOND — The University of Central Oklahoma will house its new School of Design on property it purchased from a local church several years ago.
University leaders said the School of Design is launching a capital campaign to renovate the St. Mary's Episcopal Church property just west of campus at 326 E First.
Steven Akins, director of marketing for the UCO's College of Fine Arts and Design, said the School of Design formerly was known as the Department of Design. He said the university recently completed the process to elevate its status from an academic department to a school.
The announcement about the campaign brings an end to community speculation about the university's use for the church property.
The church and university agreed to swap properties in 2016, with the church paying the school a sum of money in addition to the land exchange.The St. Mary's congregation agreed to swap its 3 acres of property adjacent to UCO in exchange for 23 acres of property near Broadway and Covell Road, plus $1.4 million.The agreement was designed to give the landlocked church an opportunity to move closer to its affiliate school, St. Mary's School at 505 E Covell Road. The move also was expected to alleviate parking concerns for the congregation.
At the time of the property agreement, UCO leaders agreed to lease the First Street property to St. Mary's for up to three years to give the congregation time to move.University leaders had no specific plans for the St. Mary's property at the time of the agreement.
The Rev. Mark Story, the church's rector, said his congregation initially was given until the end of 2019 to vacate the church complex.
However, the university extended St. Mary's time to move when plans for the church's new building were stalled. Story said leaders with the city of Edmond wanted to discuss more details about the church's new building site, particularly its compliance with the city's tree requirements.
Story said the congregation now plans to move out in April. The rector said the church will move its office to St. Mary's School, 505 E Covell Road and hold worship services there as well until its new church building is completed.
Meanwhile, Akins said the St. Mary’s property will allow the School of Design to consolidate into a single, larger space, which will help enhance faculty communication and collaboration and allow classes to be scheduled based on students' needs. Currently, the school has three design labs spread out among three buildings, three sets of faculty offices spread over two buildings and class schedules that run from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. due to the lack of available classrooms, Akins said.
"Most universities, there's almost always a shortage of space," Akins said. "From the College of Fine Arts and Design's standpoint, we're very happy that the university made our needs a priority. Really, there are so many things that could have been done with this property."
In a news release, Steven Hansen, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Design, said funds have been saved for renovations to the church property and the college is hoping to augment costs through fundraising and philanthropy.