Work is progressing on the Sacred Heart Parish Center renovation project, with the nearly $2 million project slated to be completed at the end of summer 2012.
Located on Center Street in St. Marys, the parish center was the former Sacred Heart Elementary School, which closed following the merger of three local Catholic elementary schools.
"Nothing has been done to the building for at least 40 years, no maintenance, no cosmetic repairs, nothing," said Fr. Eric Vogt, OSB, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, who noted the three-story building was built in 1922. "Basically, we're giving the basement and first floors a big facelift so that it's usable."
The project entails changing and installing windows, installing an elevator on the side of the building inside the new grey brick area, creating a handicap entrance on the basement and first-floor levels, installing new heating and air conditioning, and refinishing the floors.
A bulk of the work is being done in the basement area. Changes in that area include renovating the cafeteria; renovating the kitchen and bakery by installing new ovens and oven hoods to make the equipment more safe and efficient; changing the location of and installing new bathrooms; relocating the maintenance room to where the current ladies' room is located; renovating meeting and conference rooms and storage space; installing a new heating system to eliminate having a boiler room; and relocating food fryers in the former boiler room in order to prevent grease from accumulating in the kitchen.
The first floor will continue to house the parish offices and a Diocese of Erie office used to host the Eastern Vicariate Religious Education Office.
Renovations will also be made inside the combined gymnasium and stage, with priority given to the Cavalier basketball program.
"We hope to introduce some adult dances on a Saturday night, to get a live band to play in the gym and with the elevator can bring up any food, etcetera. The gym also provides for better acoustics for musical performances," Vogt said.
He added that the parish is also looking into hosting family movie nights, complete with with popcorn and pop.
"We want to make it community-friendly," Vogt said.
He noted office spaces may be leased on an individual basis, such as for current tenants Letters From Home, the American Cancer Society and Miracle Ear, which rents a portion of a room for one day a week. Office space is available for lease on a first-come basis.
Additionally, the Good Shepherd children's program will be situated in the basement, along with the Boy/Cub Scout troops sponsored by the parish. The troops will be provided a meeting room in the basement and are also permitted to store their supplies in the garage.
"It was built for a school, we're trying to get that school taken away. We need to dress it up a little bit because it's not what it used to be," Vogt said.
He added that renovations will also be made to the second floor, but not ones as extensive as to the rest of the building.
Among the area contractors hired for the project are Stagger Construction of Ridgway, Herbstritt and Sons of St. Marys, Glass Erectors from Reynoldsville and Newell Plumbing and Heating of St. Marys.
"Anything that we can do local, we are doing local," Vogt said, stating all projects were bid out, having offered bids to everyone in St. Marys.
Additional renovations are the installation of new roof last summer, re-pointing and sealing of bricks, dropping the ceiling height from 12 to 9 feet and perhaps most noticeably, replacing the former windows from previous glass block-style to new bronze reflective-style.
Upon announcing the renovation, the parish held a 1.5 hour-long Town Hall meeting, during which more than half the time was spent discussing making sure the windows look nice. It took the center's building committee between eight months and a year to decide how to achieve this.
Rob Stewart from Glass Erectors showed the committee samples of his work done at PSU DuBois and Elk Regional Health Center.
"Windows can really dress or deter from your building and we think it's really dressed it up," Vogt said. "I'm really excited about the renovation because everyone in town's talking about it, especially since we put the windows in. They are saying how it makes the building look more modern."
Also discussed among the committee was the possibility of creating a patio at the front of the building; however, the idea proved too costly. Vogt said they hope to offer handicap parking in the front of the building, off the street so people can pull right in. These parking spots will likely be situated near the first-floor elevator entrance.