Home Performing arts Like businesses, churches grapple with growth and changing needs when evaluating capital projects

Like businesses, churches grapple with growth and changing needs when evaluating capital projects


Here is the scenario:

A decades-old company tries to decide what to do with its aging headquarters amid changing market demands and new customer expectations.

Now, if instead of business, market, and customer, you substitute the words church, community, and members, then you begin to understand that churches face the same challenges as businesses in deciding when and how to adapt their buildings and their assets to meet changing needs. .

Legacy versus relevance

There is probably no better capital improvement project in the Greenville area that demonstrates how a church has had to deal with a whole range of considerations than First Presbyterian Church A $33 million construction program is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Founded in 1848 and deeded from the property it now occupies in 1850 by Vardry McBee when he laid out the original municipal core, the 3,000-member First Presbyterian Church is a downtown landmark at 200 W. Washington St. for generations.

Despite a population shift to the suburbs beginning in the 1960s, church leaders remained determined to remain actively involved in the inner city, according to David Dixon, a church elder and member for more than 35 year.

Dixon is also a senior architect in Greenville Craig Gaulden Davis, the company responsible for the First Presbyterian project. He says the building project was inspired in equal parts by an appreciation of the church’s heritage as an integral part of the downtown landscape, as well as a commitment to remain relevant and engaged with the downtown.

First Presbyterian Church. Rendered courtesy of Craig Gaulden Davis

“Looking forward, I think what (church leaders) see is such a vibrant, growing city and still a city that has a strong faith base,” Dixon said. “They really want to engage with the city of Greenville, engage with the people.”

To this end, the design team had to develop spaces that could fulfill several roles. The approximately 75,000 square feet of new construction needed to integrate seamlessly with the existing 150,000 square feet of the main sanctuary and adjoining family life center.

At the center of this goal is a courtyard facing West Washington Street that connects the original sanctuary to a new multi-story youth facility and arts center/auditorium that also incorporates a new gym into the second level.

This courtyard is meant to be open and welcoming to the public and will be bounded on one side by a private cafe that will also be open to the public, Dixon said. CGD architect Rebecca Wilson says incorporating such open space into the heart of the First Presbyterian campus underscores the church’s commitment to active participation in downtown life.

“They have a really amazing location downtown and they have a huge yard that could easily have been building space that they’re kind of giving back to the community,” says Wilson.

Dixon adds that with the church property comprising only about two blocks, planners wanted to accommodate a range of uses with the new buildings. The arts center includes a 1,000-seat auditorium that will be used for both worship services and performing arts performances. Between the upper level of the auditorium and the new sports hall is a gallery where works of art will be exhibited.

The ultimate vision for the arts center, Dixon says, is to engage the community in the visual and performing arts.

meet growth

Designing buildings that can meet the needs of performance space, whether through contemporary worship service or theatrical or musical performances, is a growing need among churches nationwide, according to Equip Studio Sims Key Founding Partner.

The Greenville-based design firm works with churches across the country and specializes in buildings and spaces to meet their needs and the communities they serve. Increasingly, churches need their buildings to meet a wide variety of needs and these designs now incorporate AVL — audio, visual, lighting — to achieve much of that versatility, Key says.

Churches are increasingly recognizing that their facilities have been underutilized and that upgrading them to fill more roles allows churches to expand the impact of their ministries within their communities, according to Morgan Reynolds, director of communications from Equip.

Reynolds says many of the company’s clients specify that they want a space “that works great for worship on Sunday mornings but does X, Y, and Z the other six days of the week.”

The stair tower of the First Presbyterian Church. Rendered courtesy of Craig Gaulden Davis

Like First Presbyterian with its arts center auditorium, churches across the country are increasingly using their places of worship to welcome and engage with surrounding communities.

“I think we’re seeing a lot more community-driven programs,” Reynolds says.

He adds that COVID has also prompted many churches to incorporate production space into their AVL upgrades as they look to expand their online ministries.

First Auditorium of the Presbyterian Church. Rendered courtesy of Craig Gaulden Davis

Church redefined

As communities grow and change, the churches that serve them also continue to change. Many churches, especially in suburban areas, now see an opportunity in converting empty big-box stores into worship and multi-purpose spaces, according to Key of Equip Studio.

Meanwhile, urban churches like Grace Church of Greenville face severe space constraints and must seek new ways to accommodate growth.

The church is now considering swapping a small parking lot adjacent to its downtown campus for two or three stories in a 10- or 11-story building that could be developed on the plot, according to Grace’s director of business operations Jeff Randolph. .

The Augusta Road Baptist Church is struggling with an aging building that would cost around $1 million just to restore it to full working order. Jhe historic congregation is now trying to find the balance between fulfilling its mission and being good stewards of its resources, according to Ed Zeigler, lead architect with Craig Gaulden Davis and Augusta Road member who is helping to develop a new master plan for the church.

“We have a 20th century facility and we’re trying to make a 21st century church,” he says.

The good news is that churches and their members are increasingly willing to try new approaches and creative solutions to meet changing needs.

“You always have to think about what’s next,” says Zeigler.