Since 2005, the Save the Villa Chapel (SVC) committee has been advocating for preservation of the Villa Chapel. Located at the northeast corner of West 9th and Plum streets (in the heart of the Our West Bayfront neighborhood in Erie, PA) the diminutive chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, this recognition is no protection against the ongoing demolition-by-neglect by the owners. In 2009, the Notre Dame professor of architecture, Duncan Stroik, visited the chapel proclaiming it “a gem that should be saved.” Two years later, in 2011, the Villa Chapel was featured on “Preservation Pennsylvania’s At Risk List”. In June 2016, the chapel was identified by Cleveland’s City Architecture as significant neighborhood asset that should be adaptively reused with some kind of community function benefiting the Our West Bayfront neighborhoods.
As fates would have it, the SVC group, now a sub-committee of Preservation Erie, a 501c3, with the help of Preservation Pennsylvania and Civitas, previously conducted an architectural and community study, and published the results, available on line at Preservation Erie.
The accepted wisdom of those resisting preservation is that there is no future for the chapel because, “there is no parking.” In fact, their are multiple, near-by surface lots with owners open to making some kind of agreement. In addition, the reuse option most likely to succeed envisions a low-parking situation. A high-quality day-care in the ground floor would be accommodated with a drop off space on Plum Street. The main chapel space would renovated as a multi-use center providing: off-site meeting space for the convention center, catered meals for patrons of the nearby Quinn Funeral home, multi and non-demoninational weddings, film screenings and recitals of live music, poetry, theater and dance events. This use of the chapel would not require on-site parking during normal business hours, but, could be accommodated by attracting neighborhood residents, by using nearby lots, or in the case of the convention center, providing a shuttle to and from the hotel.