From 160 members little more than a decade ago to 5,000+ today, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Chandler, Arizona, a suburb east of Phoenix, is definitely rising. In both membership, and in the facilities needed to house rapid growth.
“Cornerstone started 12 years ago in an elementary school. Our heart was to be a church that was true to Scripture while being relevant to our culture,” says Linn Winters, the church’s senior pastor.
To be true to Scripture, the Southwestern church calls out to the unchurched and lost of its community. To attain relevance to today’s culture, it uses every technological means possible to reach them.
Cornerstone of Commitment
Staff at contemporary Cornerstone aims their message at young people trying to raise a family. The mantra: “If you’ve given up on church, but not on God ... we have a place for you,” Winters declares.
And members of the local desert-like community are flocking to the 21-acre site that holds a new 40,000-square-foot worship building seating approximately 1,300. This addition joined an existing 16,000-square-foot education building and original 8,000-square-foot auditorium (now Student Center). Like an oasis in the middle of it all, the new sanctuary is surrounded by a lobby, café, and bookstore. The $11.7 million project will be expanded upon in future phases to create new sanctuary seating for a total of 2,200 seats. And three additional two-story buildings will be added for extra youth space, classrooms, and administrative offices.
Even though the sanctuary is large, Senior Project Manager Kathy Sponsel of Phoenix’s BCDM/Barduson Architects, a full-service firm that designed Cornerstone, reports that the space reinforces a feeling of closeness for service-goers.
“The worship space has [a] fan-shaped seating arrangement and sloped floors that give the 1,300-seat auditorium an intimate feel,” Sponsel contends. “The warm [Tuscan] color of the walls envelopes you, while the light-colored carpet tile [lends] a feeling of openness.”
In addition, a nearly 5,000-square-foot lobby features patterned stained concrete floors, while a high white ceiling “lifts to allow natural light to pour into the clerestory window,” Sponsel describes. Also in the contemporary lobby, Winters says plasma TV screens scroll through announcements, and an area with an indoor waterfall and comfortable couches beckons attendees to meet and counsel. Sponsel attributes rich meaning to even the waterfall feature, saying, “The boulder water feature at the corner of the building symbolizes the solid foundation faith provides for us.”
Another key component of the new facility that helps the church reach out to its young, family-based constituents is the grade-school children’s area, designed by Wacky World Studios of Oldsmar, Florida, to resemble a Nickelodeon studio. The area sports a 20-foot tree with mechanical monkeys, while a life-like elephant in a waterfall greets infants and toddlers.
Drop off at children’s areas is facilitated by expansive parking outside for easy access to youth areas inside the lobby, aiding both family involvement and convenience.
The new facility also houses what Winters refers to as “Volunteer Central,” where more than 300 volunteers check in each week to ensure the facility effectively caters to attendees and delivers a high-tech experience.
Winters reports that Cornerstone’s goal to reach out to its community and draw them in has been fulfilled through its new building. “Our lobby is inviting, vibrant, and loud,” he maintains. And he adds that the state-of-the-art sanctuary with expansion capability, in particular, “landed right on.”
Inside the auditorium is what Winters coins “serious multimedia.” A center screen measuring 18-feet by 36-feet supports both worship and the message. That screen along with two smaller 16-foot by nine-foot side screens raucously, yet reverently, displays top quality video clips and the movements of Winters and Cornerstone’s professional praise and worship band.
According to Dean Hodges, the owner representative and acting project manager for Cornerstone’s building project, as well as owner of Eagle Project Consulting LLC in Mesa, Arizona, BCDM/Barduson designed the auditorium to accommodate the house of worship’s high-tech requirements. While Alpharetta, Georgia-based Clark ProMedia designed and installed the chosen Vista Spyder video system with the enormous screen and a high-quality sound system to match.
Since the project took 36 months from the decision to begin building to actual occupancy, and congregational growth took rapid flight during this time, Hodges says that architects, builders, and technical systems designers had to work together to mold the project to accommodate more growth than originally anticipated. “Cornerstone asked [BCDM/]Barduson to change the office spaces into adult classrooms to better utilize the square footage,” Hodges says. “The end results were two very large adult classrooms with 12-foot ceilings to give an expansive feeling to the space, plus a smaller adult classroom was formed where the original receptionist lobby was [planned].”
In another example of give and take, the decision to add the Vista Spyder video system was made over half-way through the building process, when Cornerstone made their final equipment choices. “The decision to go with the new video system required a significant effort by the entire architectural, general contractor, and [audio-visual (A/V)] consultant team to shoe horn’ the new system into the nearly constructed building,” Hodges states.
Changes involved expanding the sanctuary platform and creating a much larger than originally designed opening in a 36- foot-high masonry wall to accommodate the rear projection system needed for the sizable screen. “The final results were an awesome demonstration of teamwork and design,” Hodges adds.
Perhaps learning from its last-minute structural changes, Hodges reports that the church has planned for expansion growth in its next phase. “Their foresight and planning for conduit and structural attach points for [the] future have provided growth capability that will be realized in the years to come.”
Scottsdale, Arizona-based Rowland Companies was the general contractor charged with building Cornerstone anew. Paul Alessio, vice president of development for the company, explains his company’s challenges: “The new construction (building and site work) needed to blend with the existing campus so the new improvements looked like a natural expansion. As a result, the entire campus exterior buildings were repainted to match the new building.”
Of the changes involved in making the chosen video, sound, and lighting system work, Alessio contends that the additional cost and time was well worth it. “It helped the church achieve its long-term desires,” he states.
Cornerstone’s facility is constructed of exterior insulation finishing systems (EFIS), stone, and steel. “The method of construction is a slab on grade with steel frame, metal stud infi ll, and EFIS and stone exterior skin,” Alessio describes. Additionally, “new landscaping and site work were installed to blend with the existing landscaping.”
Since Cornerstone was designed and constructed with further expansion in mind, Alessio reports that the building is unique in its ability to morph into something larger. “The worship space is designed to expand from 1,200 seats to 2,200 seats with the addition of a stadium-style riser system that will expand into the conference room and classroom areas. As a result, this area needed to be constructed so the expansion would not compromise the structural integrity of the building.”
When all is said and done, Cornerstone’s appearance is totally modern and accessible within the existing landscape. In her role as architect, Sponsel sums up the appearance of the building materials this way: “A majority of the building is stucco finished, with large sweeping colors used to break up the [expansive] mass of the building.”
Of the outer lobby area, “The arm of the front façade is outward reaching and fl ies off the façade, but it is grounded by the ‘cornerstone’ at its base,” Sponsel reports. And she adds, “The arm holds a 50-foottall steel cross.”
Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship’s 50- foot cross can be seen from afar. “[It] is a beacon to welcome believers and those searching for answers,” Sponsel closes.
PRIMARY FLOORING PRODUCT COMPANY:
PRIMARY CEILING PRODUCT COMPANY:
Patillo Specialty Products/Epic Deck for lobby ceiling/Gale Insulation for the sanctuary/lapendary material by Lamtec
PRIMARY SEATING PRODUCT COMPANY:
Inverse Lighting/Kelly Brothers for doors and hardware
PRIMARY DOOR PRODUCT COMPANY:
SAFETY & SECURITY PRODUCTS:
National Fire Sprinkler Inc.
Spray-on foam type
STAINED CONCRETE FINISHES:
Full-service architectural fi rm specializing in K12 educational design and religious facilities
(480) 967-7007 www.bcdm.net
A/V systems design & installation
(770) 888-5088 www.clarkpromedia.com
Cornerstone Christian Fellowship
(480) 726-8000 www.cornerstonechandler.com
Eagle Project Consulting LLC
Project management of church construction projects
(480) 477-8300 www.rowlandcompanies.com