Redeeming an Upper West Side Garage

September 2008

Standing at 150 W. 83rd Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus, is a typical four story mid-block parking garage. There’s a Crunch Gym on one side and a Thrifty Car rental on the other. There’s another garage across the street to the north, and several more in the neighborhood. But this garage is different. In a few short years, a transformation will occur to turn the garage at 150 W. 83rd Street into Redeemer’s first building—a worship and community center for the neighborhood and Redeemer alike.
 
As many of you are aware, as a result of the 2005 Vision Campaign, Redeemer entered into a contract to purchase the garage in late November 2006. Part of the contract called for the garage to be given a complete environmental inspection. The inspection showed that some gasoline tanks existed under the basement of the garage. This is typical, as many garages in Manhattan were also gas stations at one time. The owner of the garage went through the proper channels with city and state agencies to remove the gas tanks and prevent the garage from becoming a potential environmental problem for the community. 
 
Just this past month, in August 2008, we received news from NY State that the environmental cleanup is complete and no further action is required. Redeemer and the owner can now set a closing date for October. Shortly thereafter, Redeemer will begin a two-year construction project to turn the garage into a worship and community center.
 
Much of the work in the design of the new worship and community center has come from volunteers. A group of volunteer architects worked with the Redeemer staff, interviewing the different ministry groups to identify functional and space needs. Volunteer interior designers developed themes and images to inspire the architect’s interior design efforts. Data was collected from the congregation through online surveys and focus groups that helped the design team to refine the interior of the new building. Code Green, a sustainable project-consulting group, was hired to give input and direction to help the project obtain LEED Certification.
 
None of this could have been possible without the prayer and support of the congregation. Teams of people prayed each month as obstacles and roadblocks were put in the way of the project, and then removed. The congregation was faithful in giving to the vision campaign, and we received many gifts from those who did not even pledge to the campaign.
 
A town hall meeting is planned for October/November ‘08 to communicate the progress we have made on the design of the building. Additional information has been posted at www.redeemer.com/w83. We are also planning to create a website to help provide information for our neighbors in the community at www.150w83.com 
 
Now we begin not only the work of the construction project itself, but also, more importantly, the difficult work of defining what Redeemer will become as a result of having a permanent address in the neighborhood. Redeemer plans to begin looking for a new staff member who could act as the Community Center Design Director to help us define the direction for the mid-week use of our space when we open in late 2010, or early 2011. Perhaps there are also ways that we can impact the community as neighbors now—before the building’s opening. It would be easy to begin referring to the building as “our new building.” Our challenge will be to make 150 W 83rd not just a building for ourselves, but a building for the city.


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