How this Dallas firm is renovating and modernizing a historic facility

April 27, 2023
Building 1

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The facility Merriman Anderson Architects is renovating was always intended to serve as a community and cultural hub.

Dream Center Dallas is a rehabilitation project led by church Eleven32. The building, the Gospel Lighthouse Church, has been a centerpiece for the Trinity Heights neighborhood since the early 1940s. Once the project is completed, the center will feature a food pantry, six classrooms, a more than 15,000 square foot auditorium, offices and media and recording studios.

“It was truly meant to be this shining light, (and) essentially that was your destination,” MAA President Milton Anderson said. “Then the community began to grow around it. The location was intended to be a community center, a cultural center and a Christ-driven, God-fearing wonderful place that people would come as a community.”

The Gospel Lighthouse Church was started by Pastor J.C. Hibbard. Hibbard served as a preacher at the Oak Cliff Assembly of God before he left to establish his own church. He raised money to build the facility through the congregation and led worship services out of a tent.

MAA principal and team leader Jennifer Picquet-Reyes said the firm wants to preserve the history of the complex and got it placed under the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance.

“There's a lot of front-end research that we would do in a project like this (to) understand how the building was originally used, how it was built, how it was designed, and understanding how it wants to be used in the future,” Picquet-Reyes said. “...But then (we’re) also designing and creating ways to reuse this building for the purposes of the Dream Center but also trying to accommodate the Americans with Disabilities Act. So, we're adding an elevator and creating the correct ramp systems to meet the needs of anyone who would be attending any kind of function in this building.”

The complex was built in three phases and consists of three structures: the first Gospel Lighthouse Church built in 1941, the maintenance cottage constructed in 1946 and the new Gospel Lighthouse Church built in 1948.

So far, MAA has focused on the new Gospel Lighthouse Church and renovating the exterior of the building, Picquet-Reyes said. Exterior renovations of the facility include replacing openings, new roofs and windows and the recreation of the lighthouse structures. Picquet-Reyes said the firm is now gearing up to work on the interior.

“There'll be a lot more to come in that regard,” Picquet-Reyes said. “(We’ll be) restoring some of the ceiling features in the main sanctuary. It has these concentric rings with neon lights, very modern for 1940s and an interesting design for its time. We'll be restoring all those features as well.”

The Dallas-based company’s goal is to have both the main building and the second building completed in the next 18 months, Anderson said.

“We're completely reengaged again on the main building,” Anderson said. “...There's a lot of work to be done in the market these days. It's a good environment out there, but we've got a great contractor, a very prayerful church and a wonderful group. It will cost money, but that's the ambition right now.”