Location: Battle Creek, Michigan
The project originally anticipated being an expansion of the existing high school. Initial planning began in 2003. The first construction to be completed as part of the project was in 2008 and was not even at the high school. It became evident quickly that the client needed to reinvent how they delivered education. As a result of that process, facilitated by our firm and involving a national educational consultant, it was determined that the first project should be to expand the elementary school to take back middle school students. This shift would free space in the high school for an expanded curriculum. Construction on the parish center addition commenced in 2010 and was completed in 2011.
Special challenges faced included a site that was overflowing with buildings, many of which were only minimally useful. An existing elementary school had been abandoned 10 years before and was removed along with the existing rectory. The rectory was replaced elsewhere on the site as part of a long range plan to create a pedestrian mall linking all of the parish buildings. This involved petitioning the city to vacate the existing street that separated their facilities. In addition several other residential structures had to be removed.
The final solution had to link the school and church as both a physical and philosophical statement. Future phases of the project will add a new entry to the church directly across from the new parish center doors. In addition it was determined that a new entry to the facility was required in order to properly handle barrier-free access, convenient parking, and a more secure entry area. The fact that the school floor was six feet above the floor of the church complicated this requirement. The final solution places the new dining room and kitchen with associated restrooms on the same level as the church. An elevator and two stairs connect the new area to the existing school.
The new school office overlooks this entry area and serves as the gate keeper for the facility. Secure entry to the high school is adjacent to the office through locked doors. The biggest challenge in creating this expansion was in creating adequate space for the existing gym lobby. The existing space was only six feet wide. Expanding this space involved removing and existing two story bearing wall in order to create a space seventeen feet wide with space for the athletic director’s office and a school store.
The long range impact of this facility is undeniable. The parish is now able to host wedding receptions in a facility they can be proud of. They conduct many meal programs both for the parish and the community. Parking for the facility was tripled as a result of the project. In addition, other facilities were improved as a result including the new rectory, new parish offices in the old convent building, improved access and parking for the parish offices, the beginnings of a mall that links all of these facilities, and a new grotto to serve as a spiritual center of the exterior areas of the site. From a more practical perspective, the addition houses boilers and new electrical service that will eventually replace all of the existing steam heat on the campus.
Future phases of the project include remodeling of the existing high school and completion of the pedestrian mall. The parish center addition was completed at a cost of approximately $3.5 million.