When Shannon Lovelady stepped in as the Lead Pastor of Southern Hills Christian Church in 2013, he had an idea for something more than just a building. As Shannon shared the vision it grew, but the goal was always the same: to radically serve our community.
To be good stewards of what God had given Southern Hills and to better carry out the mission of the church, our church family sought to build a community center that would be used by the community every day of the week. In November 2015 the Southern Hills family committed to giving $1 million towards the City Station project and we reached that goal in December 2016. With the financial backing of the church, the Solomon Foundation, and generous community members, City Station opened its doors in July 2018.
Strategically located on the community walking/biking trail and less than a mile from the University of West Georgia, the community has convenient access to City Station every day of the week. Community members can stroll in or park their bike on the bike rack to use the restrooms or get a cup of ice water in the lobby.
City Station houses various features to attract and serve people from all walks of life. There are multi-purpose rooms of various sizes available to the community to reserve for meetings and events, like seminars, receptions, birthday parties, and study groups, just to name a few. Southern Hills also uses the smaller meeting rooms to provide free Biblical Counseling to anyone seeking assistance. Throughout City Station we offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi. Community members can get a free coffee in the lobby and enjoy one of the various seating areas during all business hours. The gymnasium provides 6 basketball goals for full court games or two half courts. The gymnasium is open to the community for free and since opening day, averages between 40 and 60 visitors every day. The Game Room houses video games as well as an indoor playground, which the community is welcome to use during all business hours. There is also an outdoor playground and large green space for playing. In addition to a staff employee, members of our church serve at the Welcome Center, greeting community members, giving tours of the facilities, and answering questions. Our congregation is getting to know members of the community they would have never otherwise met.
Within City Station, we strategically incorporated 4 entities we believe benefit the community at large. Our fitness center offers programs centered on being good stewards of our bodies. While working out, individuals are building relationships, having meaningful conversations which we’ve seen produce real life change.
With the only Christian, extended day, state licensed preschool in town, we attract families who see the value of providing a Christian education as well as families who need more flexibility with their schedule.
The Mustard Seed Cafe is managed by a missionary Southern Hills has partnered with for 10 years. The cafe offers high quality meals at affordable prices in a relaxed environment. The cafe provides another non-threatening entry point, allowing the community to rub elbows with our church family and make our building feel like home before they even come to a service.
The top two floors of City Station house 60 full-time college students. These students agree to live by Biblical standards, serve an hour a week in the community, and be active members of a church. Each apartment of 4 has a designated mentor to provide intentional discipleship. We have partnered with 2 local campus ministries whose staff work with the mentors in discipling their peers. City Station provides a place for these students to make their faith their own and we send them out with a stronger foundation.
During specific hours every day, affordable childcare is available for those who are visiting City Station. Couples can enjoy a date night in the cafe or a stay-at-home parent can work-out while their children are cared for by our staff.
With all these things under one roof, we have unique opportunities we never could have imagined, like spontaneous puppet shows performed by a housing resident for the preschool. We strive to serve the community influencers as well as the broken, the struggling, and those looking for answers. Ultimately, we want to see all types of people coming together in community and City Station provides such a place.
As with any project, budget was a primary concern. The design team brought the necessary experience and expertise to “re-think” how the program elements could be reconfigured into a vastly more efficient planning scenario that dramatically reduced the project costs down to a feasible budget. The original planning concept (developed by others) consisted of a sprawling footprint that incorporated one and two story sections. Given the challenges of the site configuration and topography, not only were the development costs 25 percent over budget, the design fell short of achieving the flow and adjacencies desired. By going “vertical” with the plan, the overall building footprint was significantly reduced, driving greater site efficiency that translated to significant cost savings. In addition, the design team was able to create a more prominent architectural solution that achieved the aesthetic goals of Southern Hills. Having a design team with integrated services (architecture, interiors, program and construction management) streamlined the process and enabled us to collaborate in a more successful manner.
This vision and project ultimately belong to God. There is no way we could have accomplished this on our own. He has been going before us, paving the way, and we believe City Station will ultimately be a place where our community experiences the good news of Jesus Christ.