Hey, Curious Campus: Is the Church of Scientology just under construction or is it leaving the Drag?

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Photo Credit: Rena Li | Daily Texan Staff

The Church of Scientology on Guadalupe Street has been a familiar sight for students walking past ever since its purchase in 1979. But with new construction efforts, the building looks a bit different.

So, when one of our readers asked us, “Is the Church of Scientology just under construction, or is something else going to be there?” we looked into it as part of Curious Campus, our series where we answer reader-submitted questions every week.

While services have been moved to another location, the church isn’t leaving the Drag. Cathy Norman, director of special affairs at the Church of Scientology, said they’re simply adding one floor to the building. Norman also said they’re hoping for a summer 2019 completion.

“It was designed as a multi-tenant building, so it was great to have the property and the space … but as we grew, it wasn't well designed for our use,” Norman said. “So to get everything that we really need for everything to function well, we just needed the extra space.”

The church is also renovating their parking lot, but no ground has been broken yet. Norman said the lot will be resurfaced and surrounding pedestrian areas will be improved.

“In West Campus, in the University Overlay District, if you develop ... or redevelop under the rules of the district, part of that is that you make, as the property owner, certain improvements in the sidewalk, including street trees and pedestrian scale lighting and really a good, wide sidewalk according to a certain design,” Norman said.

The church and the parking lot will both receive better sidewalk areas similar to the ones surrounding Callaway, Norman said. Interactive displays and a coffee shop for visitors will be added to the church.

Construction efforts are under the direction of Stoddard Construction Management, Inc., and the company declined an interview request due to lack of client permission. However, Norman said everything “seems to be pretty on track” and that the church has faced few obstacles in regards to the project.

“The permitting process … can be complicated and slow at times, but that’s just a known thing,” Norman said. “The challenges arise from a densely populated area that is where construction is booming. It’s just a lot going on. That’s really the only challenge, and it’s not a surprise.”

Norman said the church is eager to have a renovated building that will positively impact West Campus and increase engagement with the community.

“We have programs for our congregation, and then we have some programs that are just community-based things that we support, whether human rights education or drug education or … disaster response,” Norman said. “We feel like when we have our fully designed building, we will just be more able to provide to the community as well beyond our own congregation.”