Fire Rebuilding Concepts Presented

Since concluding last October that rebuilding Pilgrim Hall as it used to be would not be financially feasible given the amount of the insurance settlement and other funds available, the Blue Fire Committee has been working on alternative construction project scenarios that both meet our needs and fit within our budget. The committee presented its latest project update after worship on Sunday.

With the decision not to move ahead with Pilgrim reconstruction, the committee has had new work to do, new plans to make and new timelines to set. We asked our architect to draw up the necessary plans to submit to the city planning office for the demolition of the Pilgrim Hall skeleton. We hope to receive permission to begin demolition in the late spring. This will open up the sidewalks on Dana and Channing that have been closed since the 2016 fire, and we will have new wide open space on the south end of our campus available for new uses.

Our work since October has focused on ways to accomplish the congregation’s priorities identified during the Blue Sky visioning process: large assembly for worship and gathering; education rooms, library and administrative offices; kitchen and community rooms; rental income to support our budget; and a strong desire to meet community needs through supportive services. Any new building must also be fully accessible, include principles of sustainable construction and include capacity for renewable energy generation, fit within our budget and not leave the church with any long term debt.

On Sunday, Blue Fire presented 4 broad concepts for consideration, each of which meets the defined congregational priorities and requirements while positioning our church to meet the needs of future generations. Because the committee has only had a short time to work on these concepts, they were broadly defined. We will be working over the next weeks and months to gather feedback and information that will help us fill in the details, refine budgets and present clear information on cost, income generating potential and any tradeoffs that the congregation needs to consider in order to make an informed decision.

The concepts include a walled courtyard to occupy the Pilgrim Hall footprint that includes temporary roof and radiant heat, with space for worship, assembly, kitchen and other church program uses; a smaller version of Pilgrim to contain administrative offices and education space; an option to use more of the space at the north end of our campus adjacent to the sanctuary; and the potential to replace Durant House with administrative offices, education space and an affordable housing development on the floors above. Anyone interested in seeing the concepts may request the presentation slides by emailing [email protected].

Blue Fire is working to develop the information needed to make a detailed recommendation in May for a congregational vote. Between now and then we will be speaking with the city, architects, planners and other experts to weigh options and gather information. We will have posters describing the options in the Hall of Entrance. We also want to hear from you! Please attend a conversation session after worship. Look for the Blue Fire table every Sunday.

As always, please reach out to any member of the committee (Leonard Ash, Roger Bash, Molly Baskette, Margaret Kavanaugh-Lynch, Kara Korbel-Chinula, Lorenzo Llanillo, Scott Sporte or Moe Wright) or send an email to [email protected]. We are eager to hear thoughts and comments.