Payson’s only funeral home is expanding into a new space near Main Street, which could help the struggling street riddled with vacancies.
If the town approves rezoning plans, Messinger Payson Funeral Home hopes to begin construction on a new, 17,000-square foot state-of-the-art facility later this summer.
The facility will sit in the 900 block of South Westerly Drive, just south of Main Street.
Mark Waldrop, funeral home director, said the new space is more than double the size of the current facility and will have 100 plus parking spaces.
“It is going to be great for Main Street,” he said. “And it is a great opportunity for the town to have a much newer facility.”
The building will feature a large community room and chapel, which will be visible from the south side of Main Street. The outside will be finished in wood and stone, possibly with a tin roof. The look is a warm, mountain lodge feel, Waldrop said.
The community room is a new feature for the funeral home and represents a growing demand for after-service gatherings or celebration of life services. Waldrop explained that families like to hold gatherings where food and drinks are served. In the existing space, there is no place for such services except for a small meeting room in the front of the building. The new community room will feature tables for 150 people, a large patio and LCD TV and a kitchen. Local caterers can bring food, or a family can bring their own.
The community room will also be open to the public for special functions, like game nights, parties and meetings. The space can be closed off from the rest of the facility and guests can enter through a separate entrance.
“Most everyone who comes in has stated we wished we had the new facility now,” he said of the community room.
The new space will also have two chapels. The first can hold 175 people and the other 100. The current space can only hold 75 people, which means Messinger cannot accommodate large services in their current building.
“Most of the families would use our chapel for services if it were larger,” he said.
The facility will be wired with the latest technology, including video screens in the chapels and community room where the service can be watched. They also plan to broadcast services over the Internet for families out of town.
Another function of the new facility is having a room available to perform autopsies. Currently, bodies are driven to Tucson for autopsy because of a Gila County agreement. Having a medical examiner onsite will mean faster results for family and authorities, Waldrop said.
It has been 38 years since a new funeral home was built in Payson. The current funeral home was built in 1971 with Waldrop beginning work there in 1986. Waldrop spent a brief time as owner of the funeral home, but ultimately decided to sell it to Messinger in 2000.
Paul and Cora Messinger and their sons Ken and David own three other funeral homes and a cemetery in the Scottsdale area. Messinger plans to keep the old facility and possibly convert it into office space.
The new building should be completed approximately a year after construction begins.