Community plan to preserve architectural gems sensible

Columbus has thrived for decades because of partnerships. Particularly, public-private collaborations have yielded many beneficial results for residents. The Commons is just one example.

A new partnership in a slightly different mold has been forged to seek the community’s help in preserving one of the city’s architectural gems that is a must-see item on the list of any tourist specifically interested in Columbus’ architectural history: First Christian Church.

The creation of Friends of First Christian Church Architecture and its partnership with Landmark Columbus and Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County is a good step toward making the needed repairs to the church designed by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen that is the first example of Modernist architectural work in Columbus.

Landmark Columbus’ stated mission is to care for and celebrate the city’s world-renowned design heritage, and Heritage Fund administers a variety of grants to support community efforts. Those are good partners to have.

First Christian Church is 75 years old and is showing its age in some areas. The first priority on the list of needed repairs is the skylight, which Saarinen used to bring in natural light. It is deteriorating and water leaks inside the church every time it rains.

As city architectural gems like First Christian age, the repairs to maintain them become more costly — making the need for regular maintenance more important. However, that is a financial challenge. The estimated cost to fix the skylight alone is nearly $161,000. First Christian — or any other entity that doubles as an architectural attraction — would be hard-pressed to bear the full load of such a cost by itself.

Because the church and other city architectural attractions are enjoyed by the public and are a key part of the city’s tourism industry, taking a community approach to help fund repairs of First Christian makes sense. Those who derive benefits from its use or pleasure from viewing its design may want to help preserve it for future generations to enjoy.

Organizing key stakeholders to solve a problem — including the public — is more likely to produce the desired result. Friends of First Christian Architecture is on the right track with its approach.