Fight to preserve historical chapel at Liberty Station

SAN DIEGO (KUSI)- Community members have said it’s a battle to preserve a part of San Diego history. They’re worried about new plans to convert the North Chapel on the grounds of the old Naval Training Center to a rental space for special events.

The chapel constructed in 1942, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor is one of the city’s historic properties, where the handmade wooden pews still stand, along with the original stained glass windows and other distinctive features.

It was often the last place of worship for a generation of young American service members before they left for the warfront.

Now, the chapel is at the center of a new conflict. In November, the McMillan Company, the master leaseholder for Liberty Station transferred the lease for the chapel to a new company out of Orange County. Pendulum Property Partners is planning to renovate the chapel and convert the site into a special event space for weddings and receptions.

Some community members are fearful that the company will make extensive changes and try to remove most of the chapel’s historical characteristics.

Arlene Paraiso, whose congregation held Sunday services at the chapel until the end of last year said she’s concerned that the renovations will strip everything down to the studs. Last month, a memo issued by a city planning official detailed some of the city’s guidelines for adapting the site for another use.

The memo said that interior elements such as the altar, the pews, windows, and original wood doors should remain intact.

Paraiso said she asked the new leaseholders and the company that is managing the chapel, “What are your plans? And the answer was ‘Nothing has been formally submitted.’ ”

The two congregations that had rented the chapel until recently were unable to reach an agreement for further use of the chapel with 828 Venues, the company that is charge of operating the property.

The company president, Tim Wirick said, “It became apparent that our vision for the North Chapel would not work for them, and we ended our discussions.”

A church leader with the congregation Our Lady of Fatima gave a different account.

Church secretary Torben Bruck said 828 Venues offered the parishioners a chance to rent another spot at Liberty Station, but only on the condition that the congregation would support the changes to the North Chapel.

“And not only that, but to support the changes in advance. We have no idea what the changes are,” Bruck said.

Community members who want to preserve the chapel and its interior said they have received strong support from San Diego City Councilmember Barbara Bry.

828 Venues said it will follow the federal government’s guidelines for the renovation of historical properties. Meantime, until its plans are approved by the City of San Diego, the company said the North Chapel can still be rented out for religious services or weddings.

Categories: Local San Diego News