Pastor Barry Farah had a dream: to attract a congregation to an accessible, highly visible location with plenty of room to grow.
The site he identified for his Springs Calvary church was a 23,000-square-foot space on two levels at Tiffany Square, on the southwest corner of the Woodmen Road interchange off Interstate 25.
The church would occupy a former movie theater space and would include a large auditorium, a youth ministries area and mezzanine, complete with infant and toddler areas. Walls were to be removed to open the sanctuary to accommodate up to 550 people, with room for up to 500 more.
The job began with landlord-tenant negotiations in late 2005, followed by engineering studies to support a major space renovation.
Once the lease was signed by Triple Net Properties and the landlord agreed to the church’s remodeling plan, Farah called upon a team of architects, engineers and a general contractor to refashion former office and retail space into a wide open meeting area suitable for Sunday services.
Team members who coordinated the work included architects from the Larson Group, general contractor Colarelli Construction, MGA Structural Engineers, Waco Scaffolding, Sigma Metals and Duffy Crane and Hauling of Denver.
Interior designer Tru Lincoln of Colorado Springs and audio/visual specialists, Acoustech of Parker also participated in the project.
At Farah’s request, the sanctuary was designed to remove all line-of-sight posts and barriers, existing walls and supports that could block the congregation’s view of a stage at the front of the room.
While the architect had numerous church remodels in inline shopping centers, Gary Larson said a lack of up-to-date blueprints showing alterations to the space made it difficult to identify all structural requirements.
“Often retail center remodels are more about a little paint, new carpet and maybe some mechanical updates,” he said.
But not this time.
Demolition started in January. The job was expected to be finished in four months. That’s before the construction and engineering team began to peel away the layers of a job complicated by years of undocumented changes to the building’s original design.
The structural engineer determined that an existing beam spanning the sanctuary would have to be replaced to support a high ceiling with no floor-to-ceiling columns.
The game plan: original support columns, as well as the surrounding deck, had to be replaced to bear the additional weight of a 24,000-pound ceiling beam. Steel shoring also had to be installed prior to removal of the existing truss. Once secure, the existing beam would be removed.
The stronger beam was three to four times the size of the original, said Colarelli project manager Malissa Smith.
“It came to us in three segments which were then welded together, would be lifted into place, and then welded to the new columns,” she said.
Remodeling the space was also complicated by a lower level renovation that included leveling the formerly sloped movie theater floor. As a result, the surface’s ability to support heavy equipment or extreme weight was compromised.
“At one point, we brought a forklift in to raise the 60-foot beam into place from the inside,” Colarelli said. “Unfortunately the weight of the forklift immediately caused a 2-inch indent in the floor.”
On April 20, faced with that unexpected limitation, the team decided to “pic” the beam in through two holes in the building’s roof, dropping cables securing the welded beam down through two openings, which then had to be threaded through openings in the second floor, onto supporting columns on the lower level.
And not to make the project too easy, new columns to handle the increased beam weight had to be cemented into new footers, which were drilled into bedrock Lanning said.
“Safety for everyone in the building was our primary concern,” he said. “The columns had to be installed first, then the beam had to be lifted into place. Of course the crane operator we brought down from Denver to do the job couldn’t see where to place the beam so we had our guys on our crew giving him direction.”
Other key contributors to the job’s success included Waco Scaffolding, which provided crucial shoring through the entire process and welders from Sigma Metals.
Fortunately, Farah had a background in commercial and residential real estate development. As developer and owner of The Office Club in the Briargate Business Campus and several residential communities, he was in a position to fund the project. But Farah could never have anticipated the job’s many engineering challenges.
“One thing’s for sure,” Farah said. “We strengthened the entire spine and the foundation of that section of the building in order to supply the necessary tensile strength. The entire structure is better off thanks to our investment.”
Barbara Worster, on-site property manager for Triple Net Properties, said the building owners are pleased with the outcome and wish Springs Calvary well.
In retrospect, all members of the project team admitted to having deep concerns about reconfiguring the building’s structural design and for the additional cost to the tenant.
But Farah’s most important goal was realized. On May 14, a congregation of 150 people turned out for services.
“The entire project really was an exercise in faith,” he said.