St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church in 2014. (Nikki Kahn/Nikki Kahn)

I must protest Jim McGrath’s Feb. 11 Local Opinions essay, “Requiem for a churchyard,” about the St. Thomas Episcopal Church and residential development.

The original 120-foot-tall church at that site was destroyed by arson in 1970. The congregation has made do since then by converting a smaller, 1920s addition for worship purposes. It was outgrowing the space in recent years. There was a flat park where the old church had been with a disintegrating cement maze, and it will be replaced. 

As a way to stay where it was and to pay for a new and accessibility-compliant church, the parish had to use part of the property as a residential development, increasing land use. Would Mr. McGrath have preferred it to be a commercial building? A number of churches in the neighborhood and the District have used such tactics to follow their mission rather than abandon the District. 

The units in the new residential part of the building will be market-rate, but so is every other unit in the neighborhood. The District is working hard to increase accessible housing, but one building can’t meet the challenge.

Mr. McGrath’s complaint that the new church won’t look like a church appeals to a mind-set that historic preservation means everything should look old. But D.C.’s historic-preservation philosophy is that new architecture should look new unless there is a reason otherwise.

Thomas Bower, Washington