In its twenty year history as a leader in the field of modular construction in southeastern Mass., Realty Development Associates (www.rdamodularhomes.com) has custom-designed and built hundreds of homes. However, they had never been asked to build a church. That is until now. Realty Development Associates has embarked on a unique new construction project – the rebuilding of the United Church of the First Born in Hanson, which had been destroyed in a 2007 fire.
Residents there saw an interesting sight in late July, as four large packages containing the exterior of the new United Church of the First Born were delivered. The following day, the Realty Development Associates team got down to the task of building the church. On that first day, the entire exterior of the church was built, or “set,” on the foundation.
People who drove by in the morning saw only a foundation; when they returned that evening, the entire exterior of the church was standing. That is one of the many advantages of modular construction, says Realty Development Associates President Don Shulman, who cites turnaround time, superior construction and the ability to re-use land among the advantages that the modular approach has over traditional or “stick-built” property.
Designing, permitting and building a church is a “first” for Sagamore-based Realty Development Associates, but it won’t be the first work they have done for that church family. Four years ago, the church Pastor, Reverend Loretta Gomes, engaged Realty Development Associates to build her own modular home in Middleboro. She replaced her husband’s grandmother’s house with a new modular Colonial on the same lot. RDA tore down the original structure and replaced it with a larger Colonial. “They were very efficient and helpful,” she says, adding, “They took care of everything from the permits through to the final details. I had complete access to come in and see the progress anytime.”
Reverend Gomes said that “Realty Development Associates took care of everything.”
For some time, Reverend Gomes and her Assistant Pastor, Reverend John Miranda, had been discussing how to rebuild their church which had been destroyed in a 2007 fire. “We thought of a number of options, including traditional building, but we kept coming back to Realty Development Associates and the modular approach,” she says.
Reverend Miranda recalled that a handful of men and women built the original church on the Hanson site. The church had relocated from where it began in Brockton years earlier, and many of the original members of the church helped with the initial construction at the Hanson location. The new church will have a sanctuary area, a pulpit, a foyer and several other rooms. “It’s a basic, open construction to start with,” he says, noting that the church’s plans call for an addition to be constructed later. When that is completed, the church will have a sanctuary and a function hall. The second phase of construction for the church, which is home to 35 members, will include a 30 x32 foot addition off the side which will also include office space. “Our initial goal is to get the sanctuary up and running again,” he says.
The church has been using temporary housing since the 2007 fire that leveled their structure. Active in the community, the church delivers meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Reverend Miranda, who is a carpenter-turned-minister, says he has been very impressed by the work that Realty Development Associates has been able to do for them.
“We had been trying for a long time to get this built. We examined some other options before modular, but Reverend Gomes had been so pleased with the job that Realty Development Associates had done when building her home that we knew we needed to contact them again.”
He noted that RDA guided the process through the Town Hall permitting and worked with their architectural designs and other professionals. The wood-framed building was designed by consultation between United Church of the First Born and Realty Development Associates.
Realty Development Associates works exclusively with its factory partner, Westchester Modular Homes, the Wingdale, NY plant that physically constructs the parts to the buildings and then ships them to the site. John Collucci, Westchester Vice President, said that in all his years in the industry he has never seen a request for a modular church before. “We’ve done some light commercial, some office space, and a commercial bank, but never a church. It’s very unique and we’re pleased to work with Don Shulman and RDA to get this completed.”
Don Shulman, president of Realty Development Associates, says, “The superior construction that is part of the modular process, plus the relatively quick turnaround time of construction, ideally suited the needs of the United Church of the First Born. Modular construction offers many advantages, and we are delighted with the opportunity to work with Reverend Gomes once again.” He adds, “A project of this nature serves to show that modular construction comes with a number of unique advantages. We are looking forward to our work together and know that this church will be an asset to the community. We are pleased to help the church expedite its journey to its new home.”