The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon has started building a new church on the western edge of Bend, near Broken Top.

When finished, it will give the congregation its own home for the first time since the late 1970s, according to its website, and the church plans to also make it available for community events.

Crews from Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co. began pouring the foundation in December at the nearly 12.5-acre site at Skyline Ranch and Skyliners roads and recently started erecting the walls.

The nearly 18,000-square-foot building has been designed to seat about 245 in the sanctuary, including 30 choir members, according to city of Bend planning documents. Plans also call for a multipurpose room, administrative offices, four classrooms, a fellowship hall, a kitchen and several meeting rooms.

The project’s value is estimated at about $5.6 million, according to a city building permit. It’s expected to be complete near the end of this year or early 2015.

For the 180 members of the congregation, however, the construction means more than just a building, said Leslie Koc, chairwoman of the church’s New Home Steering Committee.

“This is tremendous,” she said. “We will be able to really live out our community beliefs.”

Founded in 1958, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon had a home in the 1960s when it bought a small building, according to its website. But it was sold in the late 1970s when membership dwindled.

The congregation, which began to grow again after 2000, has met in a number of locations, and since 2006 it has leased space at the Old Stone Church on Northwest Franklin Avenue at Harriman Street in Bend.

Although members appreciate having had a stable home for the past eight years, leasing limits some activities, or restricts them to certain times, Koc said, and the congregation has continued to grow.

An anonymous donor agreed to give the Unitarian Universalists of Central Oregon the property on Skyline Ranch Road, and members contributed money for the church through a capital campaign.

Sustainability has guided the design of the church, according to Koc and the congregation’s news releases.

Passive solar elements include walls that collect heat from the sun and release it slowly into the building. The roof is also being built to hold solar panels in the future.

The building has been designed with flexibility to handle different church and community events, Koc said, and its location on the property should provide views of the mountains and forest.

“It’s really quite a departure for us to be able to move into our own home and extend a welcome to the community,” Koc said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0360