First Presbyterian Church of Edgewood | The Community Church | 120 East Swissvale Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15218 | 412-241-4613
At the January 25 annual congregational meeting, the session presented a proposal to renovate the first floor level of the church building. The session is very open to hearing questions, concerns and comments. We are thankful for the people we have heard from. Below is an article from Tom Ochs that responds to these questions.
We will be having open Q and A sessions in the near future. (The last one was cancelled due to poor weather keeping attendance very low on that Sunday.) Please note that there are drawings available on a table inside the side door entrance that give a visual representation of what is being proposed. Keep the questions coming!
What is included in the renovation project?
Answer: The renovation covers three areas. The first is to reconfigure the program area (offices, choir room, lounge, gathering place, nursery) so all programs for the church will be in this first floor area. This primarily means moving the social room and kitchen functions to the first floor program area, but as part of the improvements we will upgrade the bathroom facilities and add handicap access from the Sanctuary. The social room will be a multipurpose room that will seat 120 for a meal, can be reconfigured for stage productions, or partitioned for smaller groups. This area will be new and inviting and readily accessible from the Sanctuary.
The second part of the renovation is replacing the steam heating system with a forced air heating and ventilating system with air conditioning for the program area and Sanctuary. The steam system is inefficient, expensive to maintain and heats unevenly. The 100+ year old supply and return piping and antique controls are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate. This will actually provide an annual savings in utility costs and maintenance.
The third part is changes to the front of the Sanctuary. Over time the Sanctuary has been changed, including removing pews from the front and narthex areas. The choir never sing from the choir loft or uses the organ as accompaniment. The piano is used more frequently and Sunny makes several trip each service between organ and piano. It is proposed to extend the pulpit area to be a large stage to make the front more adaptable.. The organ console will be moved to the floor of the Sanctuary. This is the more difficult part of the renovation and could be a separate project completed at a later date.
How much does it cost?
Answer: Because we don’t have a detailed plan from the architect, we can only estimate the cost. Presently we have two estimates, one done by Lami Grubb Architects and one by a general contractor. Both estimates are about $500,000.
Has Session made any decision to proceed with the renovation or have any funds been committed?
Answer: Session discussed these changes and decided it should have a better handle on space configuration, i.e. would the space in the first floor be sufficient to house all the programs of the church, and what was the estimated cost to make the changes described in the first question. Lami Grubb Architects was hired and paid $5,000 to complete the study that resulted in the layout drawing and the estimated cost. Without this information there was nothing to take to the congregation. Other than the architect's fee, no other funds have been authorized. Session felt that this was not just a project of the Session, but one that needed full discussion and support of the whole congregation.
Can we afford this?
Answer: $500,000 is a lot of money for a smaller congregation to spend. On the other hand we have inherited a beautiful but expense building that is showing it’s 100+ years old age, so we need to make decisions on how we will use and maintain the building in the future. Doing nothing is just as much a decision as proceeding with the renovation and none of us knows what the future holds.
We presently have $560,000 in investments. We use the income from the investments as general fund income each year and it totals about $7,000.00. The renovations would save $5,000 to $10,000 per year in utility and maintenance costs, and possibly much more since the steam heating system is old and utility cost will certainly again start to increase. A capital campaign will be necessary in the order of $100,000 to be raised over 5 years. With the church’s 100 giving units, this is an average of $16.67 per month per unit. A loan would also be recommended to keep from using all the investment principal.
What happens to the basement and second floor space?
Answer: The basement and second floor space will not be changed, except for the forced air HVAC. Possibly this space would not be air conditioned. The basement social room, kitchen and Scout’s room will not be improved. All church programs would be held on the first floor. The Social room would continue to be use by the AA and any community groups approved by Session.
Why should we do this?
Answer: As a congregation we need to look forward with optimism. We have a building that is sized for a much larger congregation. Over the years, we continue to use both the basement and the first floor even though all programs can be contained on the first floor. Take a walk from the Sanctuary to the Social Room in the basement and you see that the church is worn and needs to be updated, and there no easy handicap access.
Secondly, the steam heating system is old, inefficient and highly likely to require more maintenance in the coming years. There is no air conditioning and, yes, we can get through the summer months without it, but the fact is that A/C has become a standard requirement in buildings and our home.
Finally, the Sanctuary is majestic but if you look around you will see that it has been changed over the years. The pulpit/platform that uses the space where pews were removed will make the Sanctuary much more friendly to the congregation and more functional for other Sanctuary activities.
With these changes we position the church for the future. Without the changes we gamble that the existing structure and building mechanics will not become increasingly expensive in future years.
Renovation Project Blog
As the Session continues to discuss ideas for the renovations to the interior of the building, updates will be posted to this page. Session wants to hear ideas, so the comments section will be open under each blog update/entry.