The corner of Washington Street and Boulevard NE in Gainesville will soon transform into Grace Episcopal Church’s new Sanctuary Plaza.
“Our hope is that the Sanctuary Plaza will be a place where people can sit, rest, gather and talk,” the Rev. Stuart Higginbotham of Grace Episcopal said.
The plaza will include decorative brick paving that extends from the church property to the curb, improving the public right of way. Curved concrete seating walls will separate the paved area from a new planting bed, which will include mostly native plant species.
The project was designed by WLA Studio’s staff members Dale Jaeger and Cameron Yates. Higginbotham said it should be completed by the fall.
The funding for the project was made possible through a donation from Bob and Linda Fowler. Higginbotham said the two worked alongside Mary Lynn Coyle, leader of the Grace Church Campus Vision and Development Committee.
Bob Fowler died on Jan. 14, 2019, before seeing his vision come to life. Rob Fowler, his son, said his father wanted to create a connection with downtown Gainesville, Brenau University and Grace Episcopal.
“His goal was to make that more walker friendly and attractive,” Rob Fowler said. “It’s something he’s been working on for years.”
Linda Fowler said she fully supported her husband when he mentioned funding the project.
“This was something so near and dear to his heart,” she said. “I know in heaven he rejoices over good things. It makes us so happy as a family to be able to see this vision come to reality for him.”
The Fowlers have a reputation of generous investments with Grace Episcopal. In 2005, Bob and Linda Fowler gave the church four 2,778-pound bells. They were cast at the Paccard Bell Foundry in Annecy, France, and can be heard chiming across Brenau’s campus every week.
The Sanctuary Plaza will act as the first of several projects leading up to the church’s bicentennial in 2028.
“I always love seeing people come together with dreams and vision, investing in them and seeing them come to fruition,” Higginbotham said.