The dilapidated church at 160 Read St. will be reconstructed as a single-family home.
Photo courtesy of ANDREAS BOECKL
An architectural drawing of the proposed home the Boeckl family plans to build.
TARPON SPRINGS – After sitting empty and deserted for years, the church at 160 Read St. will soon have a new purpose: a family home.
Richard Boeckl bought the property in 1973 after watching the For Sale sign sit unchanged next to his family’s home for four years. But it wasn’t the 15,500-sqaure-foot church he was interested in; he wanted the old Sunday School and nursery behind the church. He thought he could turn it into an apartment complex.
He tented for termites, put on a new roof and painted the buildings … twice. Eventually, he began renting out the church for $135 a month. But in 1993, the no name storm swept through Tarpon Springs and filled the church with water 3 feet deep. The roof was damaged again. And repairs were going to be expensive.
“I had three children in college at that time,” said Boeckl, a retired teacher from Sunset Hills Elementary School. “I could either educate my kids or fix the building.”
So he kept paying for tuition and the church and nursery began to slip, once again, into disrepair.
It wasn’t until 2011, when the city of Tarpon Springs began fining Boeckl for code violations, that new plans began to form. Make a move or continue paying fines.
“They made us do what we have to do,” said Andreas Boeckl, Richard’s son.
Engineers declared the buildings structurally deficient in terms of converting them to apartments or condos, and Boeckl didn’t want to tear them down and start all over. In 2011, in the heat of the economic downturn, loans from banks for commercial real estate were few and far between.
Instead, 40 years after he first bought the property, Boeckl decided to build a new home for his family.
After minimal demolition to the back of the building, the three-story five bedroom/five bath home will sit at 10,000 square feet under the roof. The bottom floor, which lies below flood levels, cannot be used for living space and will instead be made up by utility closets and garages.
In order to retain the historical significance of the building, the Boeckls will be keeping the gable roof, rectangular bell tower with round arch openings and flat-roofed arcaded entry porch, as well as other historic elements. The bottom wall of the back building will be left erect and serve as a garden wall. Because only minor alterations have been made and the majority of architectural details remain, the building will still be considered a contributing resource to the National Registry of Historic Places and the Local Tarpon Springs Historic District.
The new house also will be constructed under Energy Star’s guidelines for energy efficient “green homes,” which will help lower electricity costs.
“The glory of this building will be brought back,” Boeckl said.
Boeckl has received approval for his plans from the Heritage Preservation Board and the Development Services Department pending minor adjustments. He hopes to begin construction in September and have the project completed within a year.
“It’s a significant feature in this town. The easy, low risk thing for a retired school-teacher to do would be to tear it down,” Andreas Boeckl said. “We’re doing what’s right for the town and the building.”