As many as 100 people attended an often emotional public hearing held by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on Thursday, March 20 to hear a proposal to transform the old Bradley Memorial Church in Oak Bluffs into a multi-use building with affordable housing, artists’ workshops and a museum.

The proposal by Island Housing Trust drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Olde Stone Building in Oak Bluffs, as people quickly filled all the seats and packed shoulder to shoulder to hear the innovative proposal.

The commission heard an in-depth summary of the project and then approximately 90 minutes of public testimony before voting to continue the hearing until a later meeting.

The $5.1 million proposal to renovate the old Bradley Memorial Church at the corner of Masonic and Dukes County avenues seeks to address several community needs in one project, including affordable housing and historical preservation.

The plan is to move and renovate the existing Bradley Memorial Church — otherwise known as the Denniston House — approximately 70 feet to the east onto a new foundation with a full basement.

The first floor of the church’s former sanctuary, where the Rev. Oscar E. Denniston once led church services, would be renovated into a multi-use cultural center, while the back of the first floor would be converted into an office for the Island chapter of the NAACP. The second floor of the building would be renovated into two affordable housing units.

Two additional buildings, identical in design and scope, would be constructed between the Denniston House and Dukes County avenue. Each would have two affordable residential units, which also could accommodate work space, on the ground floor, two affordable residential units on the second floor and one residential unit on the third floor.

Sidewalks would front the entire property along Dukes County and Masonic avenues. A driveway would be built along the rear of the property to provide access and parking behind the buildings. Project proponents envision the project as an extension of the Oak Bluffs arts district, which is located along Dukes County avenue.

Although the project has been proposed by the Island Housing Trust, the lead applicant is listed as John Early Contractor and Builder of West Tisbury, while Island Affordable Housing Trust is listed as a co-applicant.

A special design committee was created to oversee the proposal, which includes members of the Oak Bluffs Historical Commission, the Oak Bluffs Arts District, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, the Oak Bluffs Affordable Housing Association, the Oak Bluffs selectmen, the NAACP and Habitat for Humanity.

Response to the Bradley Memorial Church project — also known simply as Bradley Square — has been almost universally positive over the past few months. The project has drawn rave reviews for its innovative design which provides affordable housing, arts work spaces, a community center and a museum to celebrate the legacy of the late Reverend Denniston.

A majority of those who attended the hearing last Thursday also were supportive. But the proposal did draw darts from some neighbors who felt the project would create problems with traffic and parking and was also too large in scale for the proposed location.

“This just doesn’t fit here,” said Circuit avenue resident Donald Muckerheide. “I support fixing up the old [Denniston House] and I support affordable housing; but this is dramatically out of scale for that property.”

Mr. Muckerheide said his biggest concern was the lack of parking around the new complex. But he also struck on a theme shared by many neighbors: that the Oak Bluffs Arts District was slowly taking over the neighborhood.

“People don’t want to come out against the arts district — but if you ask me they are taking over the whole road,” he said. “We are already inundated with their arts strolls, and now they want to have four artists’ workshops, not to mention a community center and 12 residential units. It seems just one of these projects would fill the property, but they want to pack three projects into one.”

Circuit avenue resident Taylor Montgomery said he was somewhat opposed to the project, largely because the service road in back of the building, which directly abuts his property, would be used for trash pickup, fuel delivery, tenant and guest parking, and parking for cultural center events.

“It’s too much for this small residential block . . . too much of a good thing can be a bad thing,” he said.

Other neighbors raised concerns about the six-foot fence slated to be built around the building while others complained the new buildings will literally tower over the homes in the neighborhood.

“I understand that affordable housing is a huge problem on the Island, but I don’t think we should try to force a round peg into a square hole here,” one woman said. “If they can scale this back they might find a way for it to fit.”

But there was an equal number of people, perhaps more, who fully supported the project.

Linsey Lee, the oral historian for the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, said the proposal would allow for the vast collection of historical materials inside the Bradley Memorial Church to be archived and preserved.

“It’s a treasure trove inside there . . . the contents of that house will help people to learn and celebrate the traditions of the church and the community,” Ms. Lee said.

David Wilson, chairman of the town historic district commission, said the effort to restore the Bradley Memorial Church has inspired a wellspring of goodwill around the Island.

“The efforts of these people to preserve this building have inspired me and inspired a lot of people,” Mr. Wilson said. “They have done a good job of deciding what to do with a truly unique entity that will be preserved and continued forever . . . if this project is not approved who knows what will happen to this treasure?”

Selectman Ron DiOrio said the project was the first to incorporate elements of affordable housing, economic development, culture and arts. He said the project deserved extra points for preserving a historic building.

“Too often the solution on this Island is to knock a building down instead of working to preserve its historical character,” he said.

Natalie Dickerson, president of the Vineyard chapter of the NAACP, said the Bradley Square project was one of the most exciting projects she ever had participated in.

“It’s an exciting venture for the entire community . . . this is something that will provide a benefit for all of us, as well as our children and their children,” she said.

At the close of the hearing, Martha’s Vineyard Commission chairman Douglas Sederholm acknowledged that the project was “a lot of development” for the proposed location, and suggested that project proponents consider whether a scaled-back project might fit their needs.

The public hearing is tentatively scheduled to resume on April 17.