After a dozen-year wait, church files plans to build new facility in far east Lawrence

photo by: Courtesy: Cornerstone Community Church

Cornerstone Community Church has filed plans to build a new church along O'Connell Road in eastern Lawrence.

Motorists along O’Connell Road soon will start seeing progress on a building that has been in the works for the last 12 years. No, construction delays haven’t gotten that bad, yet. Rather, a Baptist church that purchased land on Lawrence’s far eastern edge a dozen years ago has now filed plans with the city to construct the actual church building.

Cornerstone Community Church has filed plans to build a 3,700-square-foot sanctuary and church building at O’Connell Road and East 25th Terrace. That’s at the southeast corner of the first roundabout on O’Connell Road, south of 23rd Street. (Did I just say a roundabout has a corner? Maybe I did earn my grade in geometry.) Regardless, it is the vacant piece of ground that has had a cross stuck in it for years.

“It has been a pretty long process,” Pastor Gary O’Flannagan said.

Shortly after he came to Lawrence in 2008, he said the congregation of Cornerstone came to the conclusion that it needed to have a more visible church home. The church had been housed in a residential neighborhood near Lawrence High School and was largely invisible to most parts of the community, O’Flannagan said.

So, the church ended up taking a leap — but not a head-first one. It bought a vacant piece of ground in a developing area, then did the very unglamorous work of starting to pay it off. That included a loan on the property and $24,000 a year in special assessments related to the new streets, sewers and other infrastructure that was built to serve the area. For everyone who thinks the City of Lawrence simply pays for all of that stuff as part of a new development, think again.

In October, Cornerstone found a buyer for its old church property, another church, and decided now was the time to take another leap, even though the church world is still only starting to get back to normal as pandemic restrictions ease.

“We’re going for it,” O’Flannagan said. “This is where God has us going.”

The church is particularly pleased that God has them going toward the east side of town. O’Flannagan noted that church construction in Lawrence has trended much more to the west and northwest parts of Lawrence. About three-fourths of the church’s congregation lives east of Massachusetts Street currently. O’Flannagan thinks a church on the far eastern edge of Lawrence will attract new people, as additional housing is being built along O’Connell Road, plus the building will be well positioned to serve the existing Prairie Park neighborhood.

Church members are looking forward to having a more visible building and getting to learn a new neighborhood.

“We are just hoping to mesh well with our neighbors,” O’Flannagan said. “We are a church that wants to help the community, and we want to learn what we can do in a new part of town.”

As for the church building itself, O’Flannagan said about a third of the building would be for a sanctuary, about a quarter for office and Sunday school classroom space, and the remaining portion will serve as a large gathering area for fellowship.

The building won’t be a fancy megachurch type of development, but rather will tie in well with the working class, straightforward ways of many congregation members, he said.

“We predominately have been a blue-collar church all these years,” O’Flannagan said. “Hard-working, blue-collar people. People used to call them salt of the earth. They are just really down-home people who love God and love Lawrence.”

O’Flannagan expects construction on the church building to begin in June. He expects the building to start hosting church services slightly before Thanksgiving. In the interim, the church is meeting in hotel space near 23rd and O’Connell.


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