We know that there are still lots of questions about the Community Center project. While we've done our best to answer the most common ones here, we know we've missed something. Send them along to our Contact Form, and we'll do our best to answer them as quickly as possible.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NEW BUILDING
Will the upper level be fully built out on this project?
Yes. In 2012, we proposed a multi-step plan, where the upper level would be completed as a follow-up project to reduce total costs. We clearly heard that our community did not want to wait to have this important space ready. So today, we have anticipated the completion of all of the floors as part of our $7M building project.
Will digging down further cause this lower level to flood?
No. While the lower level of the Community Center is expected to be about five feet lower than it is in our current building, the new design also includes modern waterproofing and foundation technology that did not exist when the parish hall was build 150 years ago. Consequently, we expect it to be drier than the current building.
Can the building incorporate a green roof or rooftop deck?
We know that there is strong support in the community for a rooftop deck, urban garden, or "green roof" design. Adding these features to the Community Center would cost approximately $750,000. In order to keep the costs manageable, we will not be incorporating a green roof in this project - but will build the structure so that it can support the add-on of one in the future (including elevator access to the space)
What will change in the Sanctuary?
In order to keep costs to a manageable $7M, we have focused this project on the Parish Hall replacement, not the Sanctuary. The only difference we will see in that space is the northeast corner (where the stairs and elevator lift currently are). Because the main level of the new Community Center will be at the same grade as the pews, these stairs and lift will no longer be needed. They will be replaced by a simple door leading to the Center's main entrance and main-floor bathrooms.
While there are a number of improvements that we know are important to parishioners (including organ repair, stained glass window repair, and floor replacement), each would add at least $500k to the total project costs. We believe those are appropriate projects to pursue in followup campaigns in future years.
Where will we prepare food in the new building?
A more apporpriate question may be "where won't we?"
On the main level, there will be an ample warming station that can support Sunday morning coffee hours and support for small meetings.
The lower level kitchen is more than twice the size of our current kitchen, providing a lot of space for Care For Friends' homeless meal program - and the integrated elevator can be used by caterers who service weddings or larger events (like a wedding reception or anniversary party) on the main level.
Should we prefer to have a meal served in a way that allows guests to see the cooks in the kitchen (perhaps for the ASP dinner), the event can also be hosted entirely on the lower level.
The top level includes a snack station that can serve simple meals to students in the classrooms, or small meetings that may fit in those places as well.
What about parking?
The new building provides for the same number of parking spaces as our current building. Additionally - if we expand a few more feet into the front lawn, we could support perhaps three or four more cars than we do today.
How can different communities be safely separated in the new building?
We expect that the new Community Center is likely to be used by a lot of different groups simultaneously. That's why we've designed it to secure each major space from the others - through locking doors, separate entrances, and elevator controls.
A few years ago, we had extensive conversations with Chicago Public Schools about using our anticipated top floor classrooms as overflow space for CPS students. While we ultimately weren't able to build the building in time to meet that need, they were satisfied that there was appropriate separation of entrances and security in place to support students upstairs concurrently with homeless meal services downstairs - and an appropriate traffic pattern for pickup and dropoff, too.
Can we really use the top floor for a preschool?
Yes. Should the parish decide to rent the upper level to a preschool during the week, current building codes would allow it to happen for any students over 2 years old.
Will the building require any zoning variances?
No. We have had initial conversations with all relevant City authorities (zoning board, landmarks, etc.) and - while we have not yet applied for final permits - do not expect that any variances or special permitting will be required for our project.
Is the building design final, or can we still suggest changes to it?
It depends on how big the potential change is. At this point, we have locked in place the major elements of the design (it will be three floors, it will take up the specified footprint, plumbing and sewer stacks are locked in place).
Within those major parameters, there is still opportunity to make minor changes (doors can swing different directions, electrical sockets and switches can be relocated, interior walls can be moved somewhat).
We will definitely have a time for input before final sign-off is put on these final details of building design. However major changes which would significantly alter the cost are no longer being considered (and to that end, please know that the current building represents the best of at least 17 iterations that were considered - including building on the parking lot, digging an underground parking lot, renovating and incorporating the inside of the Rectory space along with this building, and more).
We also have made no decisions on cosmetic design elements like paint colors, carpeting or tile choices, and the like. A part of the $7M budget has been set aside for these items, and there will be opportunity for a design committee to solicit feedback on these important elements.
Questions About the Existing Building
Is the current building Landmarked? How would the new building change things?
Although none of the buildings on the COS campus are historical landmarks on their own, Fullerton Parkway is a landmark historical district - which largely locks in place the front facade of all buildings up and down the street.
Among other things, this means that we cannot make a curb cut into the parking lot from Fullerton Parkway.
Fortunately, we are not planning to make any changes to the Sanctuary building, and so no changes will happen to the front facade. The Community Center largely fits the same footprint as the current Parish Hall (behind the worship building), is the same height as the current building, and there will only be minor changes noticeable around the parking lot door.
We have had early conversations with all relevant permitting and landmarking bodies, and have gotten initial approval from them on these plans.
Is the current building out of code compliance with the city?
This is a topic that we know many in the COS community have talked a lot about. As a 150-year-old building, it certainly was not built up to present-day building codes.
However, due to the age of the building, our current structure is "grandfathered in" - and so we are not in violation of any City codes.
That said, if we were to add any additional square footage to the building, or undertake any renovations (like a new roof or added bathroom) that cost more than 15% of the value of the building, our "grandfathered" status would be nullified, and we would need to bring the entire building up to modern code.
Firewall separation between the Sanctuary and the Parish Hall, in particular, is one of the major code issues that would need to be addressed. Our best estimate is that it would cost $1.5M to get in compliance with that issue alone - and we would get no benefit of improved program spaces by doing so. That's why we have spend the last ten years planning for this larger Community Center project.
Is the building really at its end of life?
This is another topic that we know the COS community has had a lot of discussions about. To be clear, the current parish hall is not inherently dangerous or unsafe to be in.
As homeowners in older buildings can attest - there is no telling exactly when "end of life" happens. Do we think that the roof will collapse in the next few months? Probably not. Do we think it's likely to need replacement in the next ten years? Probably. Exactly when - we don't know. But we do know that our 150-year-old, wood-frame Parish Hall was originally constructed to be a "temporary" meeting place when the sanctuary was being built. It has certainly been fully depreciated in value, and we have determined that it would not be good stewardship to continue to operate in this building without a plan for replacement.
Questions About Money
I made a pledge in the 2012 Campaign. What is the status of that money?
If you made payments to your pledge in 2012, they are part of the $768k currently in the bank that will be directed towards this project, or are part of the $276k that has already been spent on campaign expenses to date.
We know that circumstances have changed for many parishioners since that campaign - some will no longer be able to fulfil their pledge, and some will be capable of contributing much more. Therefore, we are asking every parishioner to make a new pledge to this campaign.
Please contact us at if you have specific questions about your prior pledge status.
Will COS be able to afford to operate a newer, larger building?
Yes. Although the new building will have 33% more square footage than the current Parish Hall, the new building will be much better insulated and more energy efficient than our 150 year old wood frame structure.
There can be a lot of number crunching done on it, but we estimate that the operating costs will be about the same in the new building as there is in the current one.
For this reason, we are confident that we will be able to afford day-to-day life in the new building - even before considering potential rental income that the new building could create.
Is COS currently financially stable? It seems like less people go to church these days?
Yes. Although COS is not rapidly growing in numbers, we have remained remarkably stable - even in a time when other churches have seen serious declines in membership. We've also seen consistent increases in annual giving and run a balanced budget each year.
Do we need to take on debt for the new building? How would we pay for it?
If the Major Gifts and 2021 All Parish Campaigns reach their full goals, this building can be built without taking on any debt.
However, we know that Canon Law would allow us to take out up to $1.5M of debt backed by the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago to cover any shortfalls in those campaign. If we were do to this, we believe the mortgage could be paid through rental fees for the upper-level classrooms by a local preschool or arts program. We do not have a specific renter in mind, but have done enough research to be confident that we could easily find a tenant when the construction date is finalized.
Who owns the current building and land?
We know that there has been a lot of confusion on this topic over the years. Simply stated, COS owns both the land and the buildings on all of it - but the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago has the right to take it over should the parish fail.
That's why they get a say in any mortgages or debt we would take out on the building - and why they've set $1.5M as the maximum amount we could get for this project.
What will be the relationship between COS and Care for Friends in the new building?
The Vestry will negotiate a long-term lease with Care For Friends' Board of Directors. The current term sheet they are working from can be found here.
How are we prioritizing other projects against this one?
As a vibrant parish, we know that there are many hopes and dreams for new projects in the building - including a new organ, restoration of the stained glass windows, the buildout of a green roof on the Community Center, and more.
Fortunately, each of these projects carries a relatively small price-tag - measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, rather than the millions the Community Center costs. Once the new building is completed, we are confident that we can take on smaller fundraising efforts to fund each of these projects - and the Vestry will actively solicit everybody's input into which should come first.
Similarly, if our fundraising on this campaign overachieves its goal - we will also have a parish-wide conversation about which projects to immediately fund with the overage.
Questions About Timing and Life In Transition
When will the project start? When will we be in the new building?
We will not begin construction until we know that we have funding committments in place to complete all of the work. Because we are in the middle of the fundraising process, we do not have a specific date set.
From beginning to end, the full project will take 16 months (including a generous contingency - if all goes well, it could be as fast as 11!). We will not need to be away from the building for that entire time, and will give good consideration to the liturgical calendar, summer vacation schedules, and more when choosing the actual start and end date.
That said, the Care For Friends contribution is contingent on finishing the work it funds sometime in 2022. This doesn't mean that the entire building must be finished in that time - but whatever work their money goes towards does need to be completed. This is an important reason why we need to move quickly through the final stages of our fundraising campaign and get started SOON.
Where will church life happen during construction?
Over the years, we have spoken with a number of nearby churches and schools who have been willing to house us temporarily during construction. Once we have a specific starting date, we will take the necessary steps to finalize which of these options is best for us - and enter into a final agreement with them.
We will also have continuous access to the Rectory for the duration of the project, which can serve as a temporary home for many small group activities.
Finally, our life during the Pandemic has taught us how to connect well online. Post-pandemic, we expect to have a physical worship space during construction, but know that we can also bring that experience online effectively, too.