The re-invigoration of downtown Kansas City hits another milestone this weekend with the opening of a new house of worship.
The folks at the Church of the Resurrection believe it is the first newly built church to open in downtown in nearly a century.
"One of our missions is to go where people are and to meet people where they are," said Scott Chrostek, pastor of Resurrection Downtown. "It seemed like there was a lot of momentum moving back into the city and we thought it would be great to do something in the heart of the city."
Saturday and Sunday will mark the new church's grand opening at 1601 Grand Blvd., which in the 1940s was the site of a used-car lot and a tire mart. In recent decades, it was a parking lot for The Kansas City Star.
Resurrection, which had been cramped in repurposed spaces nearby, will welcome its congregation of about 1,000 to four weekend worship services in a new sanctuary complemented by children's areas, classrooms, a kitchen and a roomy gathering space.
The Church of the Resurrection, which has campuses in Leawood, Olathe and Blue Springs, began renting worship space downtown in 2009. In 2011, the church purchased the former Crosstown Station bar and music venue at 1522 McGee St. Immediately, attendance about tripled.
Despite buying more space at 1508 Grand Blvd. in 2013, it could not keep up with the growth.
"We realized our buildings were limiting our ability to live into this mission of building a Christian community in the heart of the city," Chrostek said.
So the church purchased the parking lot between 16th and 17th streets to build a new home. A capital campaign with a goal of $6 million reached $6.4 million by 2016. The whole project, including land and construction, is estimated at $10.2 million.
The new building was designed by Gould Evans Associates and built by A.L. Huber Construction.
Chrostek said the church loves the Crossroads neighborhood and wanted its new home to fit in. The simple block exterior has concrete floors and exposed brick and duct work inside. The cross and altar in the sanctuary, both designed and fabricated by local sculptor Beth Nybeck, incorporate raw steel and native black walnut.
The Grand Boulevard facade is full of windows.
"We want to be transparent," Chrostek said. "We want to be vulnerable. We don't want to feel like we're hiding anything. We want everything out in the open so that people can come here in those same kind of ways. Unafraid, raw, vulnerable, comfortable just as they are."
The church will retain its other properties nearby for children's and adult activities, and there is room in the parking lot to expand further.
Children's services are particularly important as downtown becomes a more family-centric place. Already 120-150 children gather at the church on weekends, about 10 percent of its adult congregation.
Resurrection Downtown has encouraged relationships with local schools, social service agencies and other neighbors. The main church building will be busy with programming throughout the week.
An open house Thursday morning attracted more than 100 visitors. The church will not be open for First Friday, but members will venture out into the Crossroads to distribute 5,000 cookies.
"When I think about Resurrection Downtown," Chrostek said, "I think we are an eclectic, dynamic, diverse group of people economically, racially and culturally. We strive to match the fabric of the community. Everybody can see themselves here and can feel comfortable walking in here."
Resurrection Downtown worship times are 5:10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday.