Should an historic Episcopal church be worried of shadow?

Josh O’Leary of the Iowa City Press-Citizen reports on worries that Trinity Episcopal Church will be shadowed by a proposed tower in downtown Iowa City:

(The Rev. Ben) Webb and his congregation are wary of the day that their potential neighbor to the east — a proposed $53.8-million modern glass and steel high rise — casts its shadow over the church and blots out this early morning light during services at certain times of the year….

If built to current specification, the tower would be the city’s tallest building at 20 stories, and rise across Gilbert Street from Trinity Episcopal, a downtown landmark that has stood since 1871 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It would be flanked on its other three sides by city properties: Chauncey Swan Park and City Hall to the north, the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center to the south and a parking ramp to the west.

Church members have petitioned city leaders to consider the effects of the tower on their parish, which in 2010 completed a $1.8 million renovation and, as parishioners point out, has opted to stay downtown as other churches have moved out of the heart of the city over the years. Not only will the tower’s shadow block light, church leaders say, but the lack of sunshine will diminish the LEED-certified church’s energy efficiency, and the added business and residential density could make parking even more scarce, they worry.

Trinity Episcopal, which has a history of engagement in social justice and sustainability issues, also is urging the city and developers to view the project not just as an opportunity to build more upscale condominiums, but as a chance to address the community’s affordable housing needs….

Webb said the church is committed to staying downtown, and likely will be at the same location in another 150 years, no matter how the neighborhood may change.

“We’re ultimately going to be a good neighbor of this development project, like we have been for every other neighbor along the way,” Webb said. “But we want to be an active part in the ongoing negotiations.”

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