In Austin’s Riverside area, an old church stands in a grassy field among towering shade trees. The Parker Lane United Methodist Church (UMC) building has been on the eight-acre site for more than 60 years, but in 2019 it was forced to close because of declining membership.
On a sweltering Austin day, Foundation Communities Executive Director Walter Moreau stood underneath one of those majestic trees with a UMC official to discuss plans for the property’s next chapter. You can watch the conversation between Moreau and Brooks Schuelke, UMC Austin District Lay Leader in this video.
“The typical default for the United Methodist Church is just to sell the property,” said Schuelke. “We thought that this property is too big of a resource to just sell.”
What they decided to do was enter into a lease agreement with Foundation Communities to allow FC to build an affordable apartment complex here for 135 low-income families with an onsite learning center. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has approved $15 million in tax credits for the construction, and the City of Austin will contribute $4.1 million in matching funds.
The plan is to start construction on Parker Lane Apartments next spring and welcome home families by the end of 2023. They’ll find an apartment community that’s environmentally friendly and comforting.
“(We’re) incorporating as many elements of “trauma-informed design” and “healing-centered design” as we can to better respond to the mental health needs of the community we serve,” said Megan Matthews, FC’s Director of Design.
Service to community is the main reason UMC chose to partner with Foundation Communities, as it’s a big part of Parker Lane UMC’s legacy. They especially love the learning center concept, which primarily houses after-school classes for children.
“Many, if not most of our churches are also involved in local schools doing similar kind of work,” said Schuelke. “You’re gonna have a food pantry. Many of our churches do food pantries.”