winnetka heights church

A 1929 Winnetka Heights church could become a center for the arts under new owners.

Lola and Todd Lott bought the old Winnetka Congregational Church on Windomere at 12th, and they are painstakingly restoring it. Besides giving it all new plumbing, electrical and air conditioning, the Lotts are applying for historic preservation tax credits from the state, which requires extensive architectural restoration.

They paid about $330,000 for the church, which a couple of artists previously had tried to turn into a live/work space for themselves, and they’re putting $500,000-$600,000 into restoring it. But this is a passion project; they’re not expecting a financial return on that investment.

Their plan is to turn it into a community center that offers low-cost spaces for instruction in pottery, sculpture, painting, acting, dance, yoga, writing and more.

The Lotts, who own a film post-production studio called Charlieuniformtango, had been looking for a historically significant space to restore as a way to provide low-cost rent to emerging artists.

A Charlieuniformtango graphic designer, Tony Wann, and his partner, Anastasia Muñoz, inspired the Lotts to buy the church for a community arts center.

Muñoz is an actress and theater producer who does a lot of work with youth theater, including the Shakespeare Dallas Junior Players. Wann and Muñoz saw the church’s sanctuary as an opportunity to create a performance lab — something Dallas doesn’t have currently — where writers, choreographers and theater directors can work out new projects and ideas for small audiences before starting production.

Eight basement classrooms, once used for nursery school, will become studios for one-on-one instruction. Two large rooms behind the former pulpit will become a dance/yoga studio and a writers room. And two identical rooms one floor above that will be living quarters for Wann and Muñoz, who will run the center.

They also plan to offer after-school arts programming for Greiner Middle School, which is across 12th Street from the church.

All of this requires a couple of zoning changes for the building, which has a parking lot to hold about 20 cars. Instead of trying to change their residential zoning to allow commercial uses, the Lotts are applying for a variance to add their specific use: A professional arts instruction center. In order to offer the after-school program and possible theater uses, they also would need a specific-use permit.

So far, they say, neighbors have been very supportive of the idea.

Inside, the church looked like a hard-hat zone Wednesday morning, but it’s moving along faster that it looks.

Todd Lott says he thinks construction could be completed sometime in August.