The location of Water Church’s new property was a key factor in deciding on its purchase, according to Tim Hatch, who serves as Lead Pastor for the growing congregation in North Attleboro, Mass.
"Our new facility is next door to the old property we leased, and it's highly visible from the busy highway which travels between Boston and Providence—- I think of how many people drive by this property every day, the potential is amazing." he shares.
This thriving non-denominational church has a long history of leasing space to house its growing congregation. That was until three years ago, when they purchased an old jewelry factory.
Partnering Up with Church Solution Providers
The church partnered with church building specialists, Churches by Daniels Construction (CBD), located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who they met through a church conference. After some initial discussions, Rodney James, Vice President of Business and Design, met with Waters' Church staff and toured the vacant jewelry factory. James inspected the2 and 3 story structure before reconvening with church leaders for lunch. Pastor Hatch recalls, "I'll never forget afterwards we went back to our old facility and the first thing James said was about the building was, find somewhere else.'"
James recalls, "When we first walked through the building I had serious concerns about the cost of the project because there was a tremendous amount of work that had to be done to turn the factory into a church."
"For decades, this building took precious raw materials and manufactured jewelry that has was distributed around the country and world. I like to think this building will now - serve the purpose of God - and take raw materials of people's lives and transform them. Lead Pastor, Tim Hatch
The 135,000 square foot jewelry manufacturing plant, built in the 1960's, came with the burden of an infrastructure once necessary for the processing and refining of precious metals.
"There was an enormous amount of hot water piping, cold water piping, and vats for chemicals used in the jewelry refining process, not to mention 4 electric transformers and miles of electrical cabling that had to be completely cleaned out'" shares James. "This plant could have powered half the city of North Attleboro. So, when we initially went in to look at the project—we knew that the church would not be able to remodel the entire building with their budget."
A Facility Master Plan
In an ongoing partnership to help the church meet its budget constraints, CBD assisted Waters with developing a master plan.
The plan's first phase called for the repurposing of just over 40 000 sq. ft. of the entire 135,000 sq. ft. of space. It includes a 1,000 1,200 seat sanctuary, themed children's and nursery areas, and a large gathering space with an adjacent café.
A two-story section of the plant was chosen to house the sanctuary. With each floor being 11-feet-tall, the project's most challenging issue was in creating the open space needed for a contemporary 1,000-plus- seat worship center.
According to Rodney, "This was definitely different from converting a grocery store that already has 18-20 foot ceilings. This was a major undertaking. In our design, we devised a way to remove about 12,000 square feet of the second floor. It took a feat of engineering to take that floor out and maintain the structural integrity of the building. Basically, we built the steel structure of a new building on the inside of the old one."
"We ended up cutting holes in the bottom floor - to pour new footings - and cut holes in the second floor to build new columns around the perimeter of the space.”
With the holes cut in the second floor we had to bring columns in and stand them up through the holes and then connect them with beams and girths to and tie them to the exterior wall. “That way when we cut the second floor away the structure would not collapse," tells James.
Once the process of cutting holes, installing columns, tying the columns together with beams was completed, the CBD team revealed the project's crown jewel, a massive steel-beam truss measuring five and a half feet tall by eighty feet long. "This beam was set in place to support the roof," notes James. "Then once the new steel beams and columns were secured in place, we went in and cut out the second floor resulting in a clear span of space for the sanctuary - with no columns to impede sight lines."
Construction Demo for Dollars
"The demo was incredible," tells James. With hundreds and hundreds of feet of copper piping, numerous transformers, and many miles of electric cabling and wiring CBD took time to negotiate with local contractors. "During the demo we were able to scrap a lot of electrical, steel, and copper materials. Every dollar counts, and while the recoup of materials was not huge, is was significant for the church.”
Another major piece of the puzzle was figuring out to make the factories heaters' and chillers run as economically as possible. "We needed to keep the church within some kind of budget and manage not only the HVAC redesign cost, but manage the long term utilities costs to the church as well.
Since part of the building's theme was to embrace an industrial look, existing floors were polished. It's common to see polished concrete finishes in brand new churches, but Waters Church floors are unique in that they were poured 40 some years ago they have a lot of character. What else was unique to this project is that many of the finishes and materials highlighted in the design were already in place.
In a desire to not lose all that the former jewelry factory was, Waters Church kept to an industrial look for their café which features exposed steel, and other elements that reveal the character of the building.
Windows and Wayfinding
Since much of the building had steel clad doors as an entry points, CBD added a main entry area by cutting away a portion of the building to create a real entry with glass doors and windows to allow for natural light.
Notes James, "Part of church design today involves understanding that when guests pull in they want clear direction on where they park, where they enter—- and once they enter clarity of direction. People don't want to ask questions. As a result we are very intentional in our design process to make sure that the facility communicates very well, not just with signage but also with colors and themes. So, at Waters Church we created a main entry that brings you into the gathering space with visibly prominent themed children's and nursery areas.”
Lead Pastor Hatch summarized his gratitude for the projects outcome. "CBD stuck with us. They didn't walk away and they really helped us figure out how logistically to lay out the space to get it done within our means."