From a new nursery, recording studio and Sunday school classrooms to exterior upgrades and modernized kitchen, bath and laundry facilities to better serve college students, a 12-year renovation project at Savannah’s Bull Street Baptist Church is finally nearing completion.
Dubbed ‘Beyond 2020,’ the final renovations of the multi-phase master plan of the 200,000 square-foot campus is coming to completion under the direction of local architecture firm Felder & Associates, Brooks Construction Group and Homes with Hart Construction.
The renovations began 12 years ago with a new roof and updates to the HVAC system, but then they decided to keep going, said Bull Street Baptist Church Pastor Calvin Fowler.
“When we talked about raising money back then to replace the roof and systems, we felt like it would almost be tragic to raise the kind of money necessary to do that and then for the congregation to not see any progress or advance, because all of those things were out of sight,” Fowler said.
“And so we really looked at just going a little bit further and doing some needed updates on the inside to be more hospitable.”
From there the church created handicapped accessible restrooms and a new welcome center near the sanctuary. In 2016 they updated the sanctuary space and fellowship hall.
“I think one of the things that’s been kind of a philosophy kind of underneath everything that we’ve done is we want to do things with excellence that are not extravagant and costly, but we want to do them where they’ll last and serve the congregation well,” Fowler said.
Moving into the final phase, which is set to be complete next month, the church sold a property it owned next door. The building had previously been used to house the church’s college ministry known as The Porch, which has been in operation for more than two decades.
The Porch’s new home is the original wood-framed structure built in the late 1800’s, which received exterior upgrades, a workroom, gallery space, modernized kitchen, bath and laundry facilities. There’s also now a two-story porch and an elevator tower. The original interior doors and hardwood floors were also restored.
“It is going to be a wonderful space for the students,” Fowler said.
When it came to knowing what they wanted to do, Brian Felder of Felder & Associates said the church had not only a solid vision, but a solid building committee put together.
“It was really easy working with them because they knew what they were looking at, knew what they wanted and had an idea in their head of a vision,” Felder said.
Other additions include expanded nursery space, a new music suite with a recording studio, renovated classroom spaces and a new focus on natural lighting.
Felder said finding windows appropriate for the building that tied into it’s mid-century modern look was a challenge, but overall the project didn’t run into any major structural unknowns.
“I think we’d all collectively done a good job of planning, so there weren’t any surprises like that. It just took a lot of effort to find the right thing, the right solutions,” he said.
“The church had really thought through what they wanted to achieve and we were able to deliver that.”
In its entirety, Fowler said the project will serve the spiritual and practical needs of the congregation and city residents.
“We’re just so excited to be in downtown Savannah, we’ve been here for a long time since 1891. And to be in the same place for over 100 years and have the opportunities to minister to the needs of our city is a privilege for us,” Fowler said.
“We take that responsibility seriously and we’re thankful to have the opportunity to do that.”