Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, located at 3525 Bee Caves Road, West Lake Hills, broke ground on a long-planned $4 million renovation project Jan. 28, less than a month after variances for the project were approved by West Lake Hills City Council.
Pastor Tom Grevlos, who has been with the church for five years, said the project is the church’s first significant renovation effort in 20 years and will address a lot of different maintenance needs at the 40-year-old facility.
Church Director of Operations Bill Dawson said the renewal project will touch all areas of the church and help to support various community groups that utilize the space, such as the Butterfly Christian Preschool, which is located at the front of the property.
“This campus renewal is not just for the church but for the [entire] community we serve,” Grevlos said. “We want to be a church without walls, not an isolated church community, but one that reaches out to the broader Austin community and the world.”
Grevlos said he does not believe the church has ever had much of a street presence and hopes the improvements to landscaping will help attract more of the community to the location.
Construction could be complete by the end of the summer and the church’s worship service schedule is not expected to be impacted by the project, Grevlos said.
While the overall number of parking spaces will remain the same, the church is planning to improve access to the parking lot, drainage and overall campus safety. Renovated entries will also meet modern fire standards, Grevlos said.
A significant part of the project is the addition of new audio and video technologies that can record services, seminars and classes for online video and audio streaming or podcasts, Dawson said.
“It will facilitate the concept of being ‘a church without walls’ because we would be able to reach homebound people that are interested in the services and learning opportunities we offer but cannot attend,” he said.
The sound system in the sanctuary room will also be updated and worship screens will be added for better viewing of services, Grevlos said.
Currently designed as a gymnasium with basketball hoops, tile walls and high ceilings, the activity center is used by basketball leagues, the preschool, for community meals and by church and community groups for meetings. The new activity center will include replaced tile on the outside wall with large windows for natural lighting and will have acoustics more suitable for group gatherings.
The courtyard is a natural area with ample trees, Grevlos said. The area is currently underutilized because the large playground takes up too much space, he said.
“We want it to be a gathering place that people in the community can actually come to, because there really isn’t a place like that in Westlake,” he said.
The carpet floor will be removed, new lighting fixtures will be installed and interior windows will be added to the sanctuary room, Grevlos said.
“The basic footprint of [the sanctuary] will not change but it will feel significantly different because of the acoustic, because of the lighting and because the windows will just open it up,” he said.