St. Laurence Catholic Church
AVE MARIA PARISH LIFE CENTER: Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Tearing down both buildings seems wasteful. Wouldn’t it be better to just expand the buildings?
Building A was built by Williams Trace Baptist as their “starter” facility and was not intended to be a permanent structure in their master plan. The building is a wood frame structure and has significant deficiencies for a public building, including lack of fire sprinkler systems, and narrow hallway and stairway widths. In addition, the air conditioning systems for the building are at the end of their useful life and would require replacement within the next 2-3 years. The foundations on both buildings are showing signs of movement which would likely need to be addressed in the future as well. Neither building has an elevator or ADA accessible restrooms, which limit many of our parishioners from using these facilities. Any expansion to these buildings would trigger requirements to bring them into compliance with current life safety and ADA codes, requiring the buildings to be reconstructed on the interior, making the usable spaces smaller (because hallways and restrooms would increase in size). After study, it was determined that demolition and reconstruction was the most time and cost effective solution. In addition, tearing both buildings down allows for the most efficient use of the property, by moving the footprint of the buildings and allowing for alignment of the entrance from Sweetwater Blvd. to align with a row of parking.
What happened to the idea of a Sacramental Chapel?
A sacramental chapel that seats 300-400 people was first suggested in 2006, as a possible Phase 3 for the Facilities Master Plan. The thought behind a chapel this size was that it would prove useful to alleviate scheduling issues that arise in the parish from time to time as we try to accommodate weddings, funerals and daily Mass. In addition, such a chapel could be used for day retreats and to assist in catechesis for children and adults. A chapel will not be included in this phase of construction. Although the feasibility of a sacramental chapel was thoroughly studied during the Parish Facilities Needs Assessment, it was determined that it was not recommended at this time and therefore it is not included in this phase. There were many reasons for this recommendation, including concern from our clergy regarding how it would be used. However, the new Ave Maria Parish Life Center will include a dedicated “prayer space” that will accommodate approximately 30 people. This prayer space will not have an altar or tabernacle and therefore will not be used for Mass, but it can be used for meditative prayer and be utilized to teach children and adults about prayer and reverence. Space is reserved on the property to allow for construction of a chapel sometime in the future, but only if determined necessary by future study.
Will we lose parking spots?
With the new Ave Maria Parish Life Center, we actually gain more accessible parking. Our parking configuration as it is currently is not fully utilized. Much of the parking is on the “backside” of the building, which is inconveniently far away from the entrances to both Buildings A and B, plus it’s not at all convenient to the church. As a result, these parking spaces are rarely used. The new building will be configured with a front entrance facing Austin Parkway. This will allow us to consolidate most of the parking so that it can be better utilized for the new facility and for church parking. Additionally, we have positioned the Parish Life Center on the property so that cars entering the parking lot from Sweetwater Boulevard have more direct access to the main entrance of the building.
Q. What’s the plan for accommodating all the activities and groups when we’re under construction?
Groups and ministries that currently meet at the Religious Education Center or in our parish courtyard meeting rooms will be contacted over the next couple of months to determine their meeting space needs for the year of construction. Many groups should be able to be accommodated within our existing parish and school facilities, with little or no modification to the groups’ regularly scheduled meeting day and time. However, we anticipate that there will be a few groups that may have to meet in alternate facilities or modify their meeting schedule. Parish staff is committed to working with all of our parish ministries, bible studies and groups to find adequate meeting locations to meet their needs during construction, June 2014 through July 2015.
Will there be meeting rooms to accommodate larger groups?
Currently, we do not have enough large meeting room spaces to meet the needs of our various ministries and prayer groups. In fact, over the past four years, the frequency of requests for meeting space that can accommodate groups of 25-50 and 100+ has dramatically increased. As a result, more times than not, we cannot accommodate these groups, and rarely on the day and time they request. The plan for the new Ave Maria Parish Life Center is for rooms that can accommodate 25-50, plus rooms that will accommodate over 100 people. In this way, we hope to better meet the needs of our growing parish ministries and groups.
The classrooms upstairs in Building B are too small!
Many of the classrooms on the 2nd floor of Building B are generally unusable for our needs. They were specifically designed by the Williams Trace Baptist Church for their “Sunday School” groups. By design, they are meant to accommodate no more than 6-8 adults. Our programs require classrooms large enough to accommodate 15-20 children and teens. Despite the fact that these rooms are woefully undersized, we’ve had to use them anyway. Maybe your own child had classes in one of these rooms? They can tell you – and so can the wonderful volunteers who teach in these classrooms, who have made the best of it over the years. The new Ave Maria Parish Life Center is being designed to meet our specific needs. We will have enough classrooms of the correct sizes to accommodate current and future programs.
Will there be a dedicated Youth Room?
Yes, and it will be substantially larger than our existing space dedicated for teens. Compared to other Catholic churches, we currently have a very small amount of space that the youth of the parish can call their own, especially for a parish our size. The new Ave Maria Parish Life Center will have a dedicated youth space that is more than twice the size of the space we have now. This space will allow the youth ministers to hold events for as many as 100 people, in a space dedicated for them, rather than “competing” for the other large meeting spaces. Importantly, this dedicated youth space gives the teens in our parish their own “home” at St. Laurence and provides our youth ministers more flexibility in programming events.
Will we be able to hold events for adults and children simultaneously?
The new Ave Maria Parish Life Center is being designed to comply with strict VIRTUS© standards, which provide for secure access and separation of children and adult programs. The design of our current Religious Education Center makes it extremely difficult to secure and effectively maintain separation of adults and children in order to be in compliance with Archdiocesan VIRTUS© guidelines. As a result, we cannot offer meeting space to adult groups at a time when children are in the same building. With the new Ave Maria Parish Life Center, we will be able offer adult access to one section of the building, while maintaining secure separation from CCE classes happening at the same time. In this way, the entire facility may be used at the same time by all.
Will Weekday Children’s Program have dedicated classrooms?
To maximize efficiency and not build more classrooms than absolutely necessary, the Weekday Children’s Program and CCE classes will continue to share classroom space. However, a significant improvement of the new Ave Maria Parish Life Center is that all of the classrooms are being designed with larger storage space, large enough to store the tables, chairs and other equipment necessary for CCE classes. Because the current classrooms in Building B lack adequate storage, the tables and chairs for CCE are kept aside in each classroom, not stored away, which poses a safety hazard for the Weekday Children’s Program. The improved classroom storage of the new Ave Maria Parish Life Center will make a huge difference for the WCP and CCE students and teachers that share this classroom space.
There are no restrooms in the RE Center designated for people with disabilities.
Currently, there are no restrooms in our Religious Education facility that can be used by adults or children who are wheelchair-dependent. The new Ave Maria Parish Life Center restrooms will be 100% ADA compliant, as will the balance of the facility, allowing full access on both levels to all parishioners.
Will there be an elevator to access the 2nd floor?
Yes, there will be an elevator in the new Ave Maria Parish Life Center, which will allow full access to the 2nd floor. Currently, the 2nd floor of both Buildings A and B at the RE Center is only accessible by stairs, which precludes many of our parishioners with mobility issues (wheelchair-bound or those needing assistance with walker or canes) from using these meeting spaces. The new Ave Maria Parish Life Center will be 100% ADA compliant, allowing full access on both levels to all parishioners.
Is there a plan for additional storage on that side of the campus?
The current facility lacks storage for the many programs and ministries that meet there. However, the new Ave Maria Parish Life Center will have ample storage to support the groups that will use this space. In addition, some items that are used exclusively on that property (such as all the supplies and structures for our annual Parish Bazaar) will now be stored on that side of the campus. By storing supplies where they are used, we greatly reduce the time and energy it takes to access and position these items.
How big will the Ave Maria Parish Life Center kitchen be?
The current kitchen in the RE Center was not designed to cook or serve meals for large groups of people. At 500 square feet, it is actually smaller than the kitchens in many of our homes. The programs and ministries that have met at the RE Center all these years have never had a fully functional kitchen. In fact, they have had to plan their events to accommodate this deficiency. The kitchen in the new Parish Life Center will be 1,200 square feet and will feature the necessary appliances so that we will be able to easily and efficiently cook for and serve large groups of people.