Growth spurs new Gardner hall construction
by Joe Bollig
GARDNER — If you want to know why Divine Mercy Parish here needs a new parish hall, just take a look to the southwest.
Beyond the parish’s community garden, past fields and trees, are the looming orange cranes and hulking warehouses of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation Intermodal facility.
New jobs mean new families in the community. As the community grows, so must its churches.
Divine Mercy Parish took a big step forward on April 11 to accommodate that growth, with a site blessing and groundbreaking for a new $3.8 million parish center to be built on the west side of the existing church.
“I’d like to congratulate you on reaching this milestone of the beginning of this building under construction,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann to a small group of parishioners. “I know it’s been a dream of this parish for quite some time.”
Archbishop Naumann was joined at the shovel line by pastor Father Joseph Cramer, Deacon Daniel Peterson, Deacon Art O’Connor, architect Jim Sullivan, construction supervisor Kyle Harris, parish council president Tony Muehe, and president of the parish finance council Mark Grannell.
“I grew up in Gardner, at a house between the old church and the new church,” said Father Cramer, pastor for eight years. “When I was growing up, we had fewer than 50 or 60 families in the entire parish, and the community was extremely small.”
In the past five years the parish has grown from 250 families to more than 1,000, with no sign of stopping. Some gain came from unification with Assumption Church in nearby Edgerton in 2011, but by far the engine of growth has been the Intermodal complex.
“When I came here as pastor eight years ago, you could still see the new high school,” said Father Cramer, gesturing south across Highway 56. “Now you can’t see it because of the new houses. The new building is going on constantly.”
The new hall will have a 15,107-square-foot upper level (161 feet by 84 feet above grade) and a 13,265-square-foot lower level (156 feet by 82 feet), for a total of 28,372 square feet.
The lower level will remain unfinished for the time being and have a “walkout” entrance/exit on the southeast corner.
The upper level, connected to the church by a corridor, will have restrooms, storage, three offices, two conference rooms, a kitchen and a multipurpose room that can be split with an accordion-like movable divider. The multipurpose room can accommodate 482 persons for dining and 775 for assemblies.
Another feature is an outside “cloister” area between the hall and the church. The exterior will be stucco and brick to match the existing structure. New parking will accommodate approximately 176 vehicles.
Although the new church was built in 2006, the parish retains ownership of the 1912 church (now used for religious education), the rectory built in 1961, and the current parish hall built in 1988 — which has less than one-fourth of the space they need, said Father Cramer.
Construction of the new hall will start within a week or two and will reach completion in approximately 11 months. The project architect is Sullivan Palmer Architects of Merriam and the general contractor is Global Construction Strategies of Olathe.