A $5.1 million plan to convert the old Bradley Memorial Church off Masonic avenue in Oak Bluffs into a mixed use building with affordable housing and artist work space has quickly become a heated neighborhood controversy.

On one side is a group of longtime residents of Dukes County avenue and the surrounding area who are proud of their largely blue-collar neighborhood. On the other is a group of town and Island officials touting a dense plan to redevelop property that is the site of the first African-American church on the Island.

As proposed, the project would include affordable housing, work space for artists, an office space for the Vineyard chapter of the NAACP, a community and multicultural center and a commercial kitchen. The plan also calls for historical items found inside the Denniston House, the former residence of the Rev. Oscar E. Denniston, to be archived and preserved at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

Also this week an Island church announced plans to use a portion of the building for weekly services and prayer groups.

Project backers have pitched the project as an extension of the Oak Bluffs arts district, a small community of artisans along Dukes County avenue. The informal arts district exists in name only and is not included in the town master plan or zoning bylaws.

Critics say the plan is too dense and they worry that their old neighborhood is at risk of being swallowed up by the arts district. (A plan to create a formal arts zoning district for the area was drafted but died at the gate at an Oak Bluffs planning board meeting early this year.)

Emotions and viewpoints collided when a public hearing on the redevelopment of the Bradley Memorial Church — also called Bradley Square — resumed in front of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission last Thursday night.

“We have been wonderful neighbors to everyone from people who have pumped cesspools, to fish markets to arts district — and this time they have gone past what this neighborhood can handle,” said Dukes County avenue resident Nancy Giordano. “Whenever they have their art exhibits that whole area is a mess, people are parking on both sides and we can’t even get to our homes . . . I must ask [the commission] to reduce the size of this project.”

“We live here, too,” said Circuit avenue resident Donald Muckerheide before the meeting. “I’m all for historic preservation and affordable housing, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of an entire neighborhood.”

Selectman Kerry Scott said she had spoken to dozens of residents in the neighborhood who were worried about the impact of the project on their homes.

“It’s not that it isn’t a brilliant collaboration between several groups, because it is, and it’s not that we don’t need affordable housing, because we do. I just worry this is too much of a good thing. This is a very stable neighborhood, people have lived there for three or four generations, and when I hear talk this will improve their neighborhood, when I hear this neighborhood described as a blighted area, I am deeply offended,” Ms. Scott said.

But others praised the project for its creative and versatile design and said it would be an asset to the neighborhood and town. “I think this will enhance the appearance of this area . . . it will be a fitting legacy to the Denniston family who contributed so much to this community,” said Munroe avenue resident Marie Allen.

“We are trying to do something meaningful for the community that follows the lines of smart growth,” said selectman Ron DiOrio, who has been a leading advocate for the project. “This is an opportunity to save part of our past while creating a better future. Too many times we simply tear down our old buildings and start over in the name of progress — but in the process we are losing part of who we are as a community,” he said.

The plan calls for moving the Bradley Memorial Church — also known as the Denniston House — approximately 70 feet to the east onto a new foundation with a full basement, and then renovating the building. The first floor of the church’s former sanctuary, where the Rev. Oscar E. Denniston once led church services, would be converted to a cultural center, while the back of the first floor would be converted into an office for the Island chapter of the NAACP. Two affordable apartments would be built on the second floor.

Two more buildings, identical to each other, are planned to be built between the Denniston House and Dukes County avenue. Each building would have five apartments: two affordable units on the ground floor, which also could accommodate artist work space, two affordable apartments on the second floor and one apartment on the third floor.

Sidewalks would front the 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.

The lead applicant is listed as John Early contractor and builder of West Tisbury; Island Affordable Housing Trust is listed as a co-applicant.

The property is owned by the Island Affordable Housing Fund, a sister organization with the trust. The fund bought the property last summer for $900,000 and plans to sell it to the trust for the Bradley Square development.

According to the application, the trust plans to sell the cultural center and all the apartments as condominiums; 10 of the 12 units will be sold for between $150,000 and $320,000. The trust will retain ownership of the land through a ground lease.

A design committee formed to oversee the plan 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.

During the hearing last Thursday more information came out about plans for the space. Marcia Buckley, pastor of the Apostolic House of Prayer of Martha’s Vineyard, said her congregation was interested in using the old sanctuary for church service. And Arthur Doubleday, a member of the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard, said he had expressed interest on behalf of his group about a permanent space inside the building. The Bradley church is a stop on the heritage trail.

In his remarks Mr. Doubleday reflected the increasingly crowded agenda for the project.

“We we’re hoping to get a space as well, but there doesn’t seem to be enough room at the table. I am confused about what is going on here . . . it seems this project is trying to be all things to all people,” he said.

In another new development, a letter from the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals indicated the proposal to create a cultural arts center and office space in a residential district may be prohibited. Only churches and schools are allowed in the district presently and any other use would require a variance, the letter said.

Candace Nichols, an Island attorney, also read into the record a letter from David Perzanowski, the owner of the Medicine Shoppe, which disputed claims from project representatives that their plan was the only one that would have saved the Bradley Memorial church from being demolished. Mr. Perzanowski said he previously had a sales agreement to purchase the church for $870,000 and had designed a plan with a pharmacy, employee housing and a three or four-bedroom house on the back lot.

Mr. Perzanowski said in the letter that after he found out about the history of the building he made it clear he would not tear the old church down. He said he would have moved the church to the back lot and leased it.

“I wanted to set the record straight about the church; it would not have in any way been destroyed or compromised under my watch,” he wrote.

Toward the end of the nearly three-hour public hearing that pushed past the 11 p.m. mark, Patrick Manning, the executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund, argued that proponents had adequately addressed all concerns raised by neighbors. Mr. Manning pressed the commission to close the public hearing and vote on the plan.

The commission disagreed and continued the public hearing to a future meeting. No date had been set at press time for the continued hearing.