UUFP Planning Weekly Update—Tabbs Lane: This Is Our Future…Let Us Embrace It!

Hands putting together puzzle pieces with the sun in the background and the UUFP logo in the center of the light

Piece by piece, our vision is coming together!
Thanks to the UUFP Planning and Real Estate teams for faithful updates on the Fellowship’s search for and selection of its new home! The following “Planning Weekly Update” (excerpted from his 2/25/24 Sunday Forum presentation) is provided by UUFP member Stephen Kadar, Jr.


The Sunday Morning Forum on February 25, 2024, was Part IV of a four-part series about our potential new home. The theme was Architecture and our new space.

Tabbs Lane Church

The property at 326 Tabbs Lane is a building of three parts. The Sanctuary was designed by Banks and Associates from Norfolk in 1983. The classroom wing was designed by Livas Design Group from Norfolk from 1988. Finally, the Fellowship Hall was designed by Michael Henry Architects of Newport News in 2018. At 14,560 SF, the building has the additional spaces UUFP has identified in its “Basic Requirements” (more classrooms and office space, plus Social Hall) and ”Vision Request” (commercial kitchen) as requested by committees for a new facility.

Positive Elements of this building incude:

  • Roofs that do not leak, no structural or setting issues.
  • Ample electrical panel capacity and current life safety equipment.
  • Neighborhood has lower crime rate than current UUFP location.
  • Site has over 100 parking spaces with green space on 6.48 acres.
  • Commercial kitchen, plus large 3,750 SF “Fellowship Hall.”
Aerial shot of Tabbs Lane Property
Fellowship hall at Tabbs Lane Church
Industrial kitchen at Tabbs Lane church

Negative Elements of the building include:

  • HVAC equipment hitting end of useful life or not working; some units need replacement now, and others can wait.
  • Existing drainage sends water to building, not away from it, causing flooding.
  • Gutters need replacing and/or the addition of gutter guards.
  • The “orange windows,” plus little natural light in the Sanctuary.
  • General building maintenance since building was rented for five years.
  • No Handicap Access to Second Floor.
  • Ill-defined lobby and small corridor entrance to Sanctuary.

As a whole, the significant positives far outweigh the negatives, which are all solvable problems. Some solutions will cost more than others—some will be solved now, some later on. 

No building is flaw-free or perfect, even a brand new building.

The Planning Committee and Real Estate Task Force has done “due diligence” as a team. We have turned over every rock and considered every detail that would be necessary for completion now (examples listed below), after we move in or a few years down the road.

  • Need and extent of minor electrical work including replacement of interior lighting to more energy efficent fixtures and minor plumbing repairs.
  • Painting inside and out, carpet, replacing water stained ceiling tiles.
  • Electronic keypads for main entrance doors, replacement of door hardware inside as needed.
  • Audio/visual, internet and WiFi for Zoom, including all equipment and installation.
  • Sanctuary acoustics and related noise control treatment.
  • Electronic security, e.g., ADT and fire alarm panel monitoring.
  • Miscellaneous carpentry and related repairs.
  • Outside storage for yard maintenance equipment and inside storage (new built-in closets for classrooms, plus base and wall mounted cabinets).
  • Additional site work, e.g., the monument sign out front.

Prospective Architectural Designs

In looking at our potential new home, the chair of the Planning Committee asked Roger Guernsey, the architect that designed our Youngs Mill building, to take a look and offer some guidance and suggestions. During this discussion, he noted that the entrance to the building and sanctuary needed some improvement, so he developed a “Gathering Space,” aka open social area for coffee, conversation, and reception, which also acts as our new lobby and entrance to the sanctuary. Roger did a similar design for the Williamsburg UU Church. Members of UUFP have not felt like the social space outside the Sanctuary was large enough during coffeee hour, sometimes to the point of being claustrophobic when crowded. Roger offers an approach to this problem. The first image is a diagrammatic plan (aka schematic drawing) of the proposed area of work (in blue), followed by two interior perspectives. The initial plan has been revised and will continue to be fine tuned for our needs. Please note we may not be able to afford the fully vaulted entry way at this point. We are getting additional bids and exploring options to create an open, welcoming gathering space.

Tabbs Lane Floor Plan
Another view of the floor plan
View of the interior space from the entrance
Space view from the entrance
View of the interior space when leaving the sanctuary
Space view from leaving the Sanctuary

So now a question: What is missing to make all this work?

 YOUR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION!

  • More teachers needed for our multiple grade classrooms.
  • Maybe new Adult Ed offerings during the evening open to the community.
  • Potential new community service opportunities, e.g., after school programs.
  • Hosting PORT and expansion of social justice concerns activities.
  • People to care for the community garden and cut the grass (somebody has to do it), and so much more…

In sum, this is our future…let us embrace it.