Unitarians purchase Piecemakers’ property

Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church's new location in Costa Mesa.
(KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot)

Piecemakers Village in Mesa Verde will soon serve the 225 congregants of Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church.

The Unitarian Universalist Church is expected to leave its current home at 1259 Victoria St. and set up shop at 2845 E. Mesa Verde Drive in January, according to Katherine L. Martin, president of OCUUC.

“It’s really an exciting time for us,” Martin said.

From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, the church will host a community open house at its new location, inviting community members to see their vision for the space, with blueprints available to view.

The Victoria Street site is the last Universalist church built in the United States before the Universalists and Unitarians merged in 1960, according to Martin. Finding a larger location for the growing congregation has been a concern for almost 25 years.

In February, a developer contacted church leaders, who decided it was the right time to move into the 15,618-square-foot Mesa Verde space. The Piecemakers sold their property for a little more than $2 million as part of their bankruptcy proceedings, with the sale finalized Aug. 31, according to Martin and public records.

The businesses that rent space in the third of three buildings on the site will remain at the recently purchased complex.

“It’s a ‘yay, boo,’ because we had a vision for that village,” said Kerry Parker of Piecemakers. “We let go of that [location] because we just couldn’t afford it anymore. It’s been a burden we couldn’t afford anymore. We were glad to sell it.”

The Piecemakers, a communal-living Christian group, will continue to operate its Country Store, which sells crafts, in Mesa Verde. The new neighbors are amenable to the Piecemakers continuing their craft fairs, Parker said.

“As far as we know, they should be nice neighbors,” Piecemaker Debbie Ready said.

At about three times the size of the church’s current location, the Mesa Verde space will be large enough for the church to finally have one Sunday service, rather than the two necessary to squeeze congregants from as far away as Mission Viejo and Long Beach into the 100-person-capacity building on Victoria.

“It’s much nicer for the whole community to be together,” Martin said.

The move comes as the church searches for a permanent minister. That process begins with posting a packet about the church online and ends with a vote from the congregation, in keeping with one of the church’s core values, the democratic process.

“It’s kind of like matchmaking,” Martin said.

The interior of one building lacks some ceiling tiles and gaps in the crown molding, but congregants are excited about the prospect of transforming it into their future social hall. For now, the space will serve as the sanctuary while the two-story structure on the lot becomes a one-story sanctuary that can seat about 200.

The timing of the arrival of their permanent minister and completed sanctuary are expected to coincide next September.

Project Manager Bob Loeschen, affectionately referred to by Martin as “our man with a sledgehammer,” laid out plans for the site on one of two tables in nearly empty building Friday afternoon.

Although the new location will include many changes for the church, Loeschen said the distinct fingerprint of OCUUC will travel the four miles or so between the two locations. A member for about 28 years, Loeschen said he visited other Unitarian Universalist churches, including one within walking distance of his home. Something about the Costa Mesa location kept him returning after nearly three decades.

“Every church has its own personality,” Loeschen said. “It’s the people that create the atmosphere. The people make the church.”

Twitter: @lawilliams30