Church of the Redeemer members met this month to discuss a three-phase plan for expansion in downtown Sarasota.
The origins of the Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota date back to the 1880s, but as the congregation grows, the church is now examining what its future will look like in the heart of the city.
Church of the Redeemer officials are currently evaluating the needs of the expanding parish, located at 222 S. Palm Ave. In 10 years, the congregation has grown by 30% to include more than 2,000 members. As a result, the church’s facilities need to grow, as well.
Over the course of three public meetings this month, church administration explained the current status of the plans for expansion to parish members.
The expansion will be done in three phases, gradually increasing the church’s footprint from about 24,000 square feet to more than 40,000 once the new construction is complete. About 40% of the facilities that will remain will be remodeled.
Andy Dorr, senior vice president for Githler Development, Inc., has been a member of the congregation for more than 20 years. His background in building and construction includes architectural work for Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and he said the church is well positioned to plan for even more growth going forward.
“What are we going to need 10 years from now or 20 years from now?” Dorr said during a June 16 meeting. “We have the space to grow as we grow new programs and ministries.”
Some of the needs the expansion will address are additional space for worship, education and youth programming, music, administration, kitchen and storage, as well as the addition of a gift shop.
The plans also call for general renovations. The electrical system in place has been powering facilities since the 1940s and is in need of being replaced. The church spends $200,000 annually on facility maintenance for the 65-year-old campus.
Parish members Don and Liz Berg are excited for the projects. Both have taught Sunday school for the congregation and see the need for the classroom space.
“This church is always growing,” Liz Berg said. “The classrooms need to be remodeled. This [project] fits the demand and it’s done with lots of thought.”
The first phase will include the addition of a north wing to the property. A three-story building will be constructed in the northwest corner of the property at the intersection of McAnsh Square and Gulfstream Avenue. The 16,000-square-foot building will house administration offices, education space and a 2,000-square-foot open space labeled as “future growth.”
“Right now on Sundays, we use every classroom for the children, and there’s no space for the adults,” Dorr said. “This will give us an ability to open that up and have some more offerings.”
Once those classrooms are completed, the second phase is focused on renovating existing rooms and music spaces located on the southeast corner at of Ringling Boulevard and Palm Avenue.
The cornerstone of the third phase is a new worship space. A lady chapel, intended to accommodate 100 to 120 people, would be built on the campus for smaller services, funerals, wedding ceremonies and overflow for holiday services.
“If this chapel is completed this way, I believe it will be the finest religious structure in the state of Florida,” Dorr said.
The design laid out during the presentation shows a Gothic revival style with a rose window as the focal point of the chapel. Dorr stressed that the design of each is dependent on the funds collected and whether members donate money to achieve the details included in the initial plans.
As the church works to finalize the design, the estimated costs for the expansion range between $5 million and $10 million. The plan is to pay for the projects as they arise without putting the church into debt.
Parishioners asked questions about music in the lady chapel, the need for parking to accommodate the growth and how the church would finance the expansion. Depending on how the plans evolve, the church could consider cashing in on a prime piece of real estate.
“We also have a very valuable asset across the street in Strawberry Hill,” said Redeemer member Bob Morris.
Strawberry Hill is a property at the southeast corner of the Palm Avenue and Ringling Boulevard, currently used as parking for the congregation. It was proposed that selling the air rights above the land — but not the property itself — could help finance the project.
Ultimately, Church of the Redeemer will rely heavily on contributions from its growing congregation to fund its ambitious plans for the future.
“We have the money — it’s coming out of your pockets,” said the Rev. Frederick Robinson during the meeting. “That’s the good news and the bad news.”