Why the Narthex?

The Sanctuary and Narthex are the most vital spiritual areas in the church for worship and the primary reason we are here. Over the last 5-7 years, critical repairs and upgrades have been done to the Sanctuary, including:

1)    Life & safety seismic upgrades;

2)    New copper cladding over the dome;

3)    Dome & ceiling iconography;

4)    Restoration of exterior brick work;

5)    Tearing off and re-roofing the Sanctuary;

6)    Replacing and modifying the Sanctuary windows; and

7)    Providing additional ventilation.

The Sanctuary is sound, but the Narthex is not. Given that the Narthex is adjacent to the Sanctuary, renovating it will enhance the entrance into the Sanctuary and improve the view of the church for those on the street. Furthermore, the Narthex has an important spiritual purpose as the entrance into the Sanctuary, which marks the transition from stepping out of this world and into the Kingdom of God.

What specifically is wrong with the Narthex?

Beyond the obvious dingy interiors that are hard to miss when walking into the Narthex, more significant flaws are:

1) The roof barrels over the Narthex entry are in a state of severe rot and decay.

2)  The roof barrels now slope towards Yakima Avenue due to structural settlement.

3) Roof structures beyond the roof barrels have no drainage slope, causing puddling.

4) The Narthex was built with economy in mind, and is showing its dated wear-and-tear.

In short, the Narthex is living on borrowed time. Without major renovation, it will continue to creep slowly towards a critical mass.

Why aren’t we doing other major renovations and upgrades? What about the upper hall, the kitchen, the elevator, or the chandelier for the Sanctuary?

It all comes down to money and means. An extensive study done in 2013 determined it would cost over $3 million at that time to do a long list of major renovations, upgrades, and additions. While some of those major improvements have been done since then, such as replacing the Sanctuary roofing and windows, the wish list hasn’t gotten any shorter.

Just raising $650,000 in two years for the Narthex renovation is going to be challenging and demanding. Thus, the list of projects comes down to prioritizing what is the most important and immediate.

Before undertaking Project 2020, the Building Committee commissioned a professional survey of all the damaged roof areas. The survey found that the roofs over the lower hall and kitchen are in a state of managed decline, meaning that they will last for a few more years with a few small repairs.

I know the Narthex has water damage, but what about the other roofs?

Why does the Narthex renovation cost so much?

The $650,000 allocated budget includes more than just a building contractor’s low bid to do the work. The construction is but a fraction of the total project cost. The composite Narthex Renovation budget breakdown is as follows:

1)  $100,000 in construction costs for street improvements required by the City of Tacoma.

2)    $300,000 in construction costs for the Narthex renovation itself.

3)    $120,000 in sales tax, permits, design fees, testing and A&E contract administration.

4)    $130,000 in contingencies, and nearly three years of cost escalation.

It should be noted that the intent is first to construct a quality initial impression of the church that will represent traditional Byzantine architecture. Second, we intend to comfortably have the financial bases covered beforehand rather than having to request additional funding after the engineering and construction is underway.

Why does the Narthex cost include $100,000 for street improvements?

Actually, the total cost is closer to about $130,000 when accounting for accompanying sales tax, permits, design & engineering and contingencies. The City of Tacoma has stated several times that a series of street repairs and improvements must be done as part of the Narthex renovation if a building permit is to be issued.  Fortunately, the street improvement work is a one-time occurrence, at least in theory, and St. Nicholas should not be hit up for additional major street upgrades in future renovations after the Narthex.

What all do the street improvements consist of?

This is shown and noted on a display board in the lower hall. What’s required is:

1)  Replacing portions of street curbing and sidewalks around three sides of the site perimeter deemed to be “damaged.” This includes nearly all existing sidewalks that run along 16th Street at the south side of the church.

2)  An asphalt paving strip between the 16th Street curbing and sidewalk, which is commonly used as supplemental parking by parishioners, is to be removed and replaced with landscaping.

3)  A new concrete paved driveway entry is to be constructed at each end of an existing alley that runs along the east property line of St. Nicholas.  This will also require street cutting and patching, as will street edge curb replacement listed in Item #1 above.

The existing Narthex space will be completely removed—down to the existing floor structure—and replaced. Among other things, the scope of the renovation includes:

1)  All new wall and roof structures at the Narthex, and framed roof overbuilds beyond.

2)  All new or replaced brick veneer, matching that of the Sanctuary, starting from Fr. Seraphim’s office and ending at the north side of the Upper Hall restrooms.

3)  All new insulated roofing, starting at the south side of Fr. Seraphim’s office and ending at the north side of the Upper Hall restrooms.

4)  An extended roof overhang over the main entrance outside stairs, supported with brick veneer that will have arched openings and architectural trim accents.

5)  All new interior finishes, which includes tile flooring similar to that in the Sanctuary.

6)  New heating and lighting throughout the renovation space, plus new cooling in Father Seraphim's office.

7)  Premiums to maintain access to the Sanctuary space and interior stairwells while construction work takes place.

What all is involved in the Narthex Renovation itself?

It would be foolish to start permit design and construction until there is the money to pay for it. Our goal is to raise $650,000 by September of 2019 before the construction process starts.

Why wait two and a half years?

Below are the three main elements to commence the Narthex renovation work:

1)  Fundraising campaign with the goal to raise at least $650,000: July 2017 to September 2019.

2)  Construction & permit design, contractor selection & contract: September 2019 to April 2020.

3)  Narthex renovation construction: between Pascha 2020 and Festival 2020.

So what, then, is the general sequencing?

Not at this time. Each of our Festivals has helped us achieve many building projects to date. We may use Festival funds to assist with Project 2020, but that would be a decision the community would consider after we know the totals from the 2017 Festival. It would take six Festivals to pay for this project, so if anything, Festival proceeds would only make up a gap. The majority of funding still needs to come from a larger community effort.

Have we included Festival proceeds in the $650,000 total needed?

This would be done only as a last resort, with the Parish Council’s approval and then the approval of the parish at large before a General Assembly. In the long-term big picture, the Narthex renovation, in terms of both floor space and dollars, is but a small portion of the overall scope of repairs and upgrades that are so badly needed at St. Nicholas. If $650,000 cannot be raised for the Narthex, the prospect for other large, expensive improvements looks dim. Project 2020 is an opportunity for us to give joyfully and fulfill our calling to preserve our church, our faith, and our cultural heritage.

Why not use other reserve church funds to help pay for the Narthex renovation?

Yes, we have looked at the possibility of financing and have not ruled it out as a last resort. But given that the Narthex renovation is a small portion of our overall need, we are reserving financing as a possible option for the future. The three fundraising consultants also warned that St. Nicholas would have a difficult time securing financing based on our current financials. We have only been supporting St. Nicholas on stewardship for a short amount of time, and even though stewardship is growing, financial institutions prefer to see a longer track record of the community supporting the operations of the church.

 Has the church considered financing a portion of or the total cost for the Narthex renovation? What are the factors that may disqualify St. Nicholas from securing a loan?

Other Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches in the area have found it difficult to secure such funds despite extensive searches. When parish leadership became aware of the need for a large fundraising effort related to the narthex, three independent fundraising consultants were interviewed (at no cost to St. Nicholas), and they made it clear that government or grant funds are not as commonly available as one might think. Plus, they come with tight stipulations. Grantors are not stewards of our church. We are, and the Narthex renovation should reflect the heritage, faith, and growth of our community, not the stipulations of outside funders. While we are open to donations or grants of any kind, we can’t rely on a funding source like this to fulfill our financial need.

Have available government funds or grants for churches been researched and considered as potential funding sources for Project 2020?

In the past, the church has borrowed from such funds, but we would reserve that as a last-resort option to cover a shortfall.

Can funding be borrowed from the Elevator Fund or
the Vitos Scholarship Fund?

No, it cannot be re-appropriated, but they can be applied to future projects that include an elevator or a library. It would not be ethical or in keeping with the trust and good faith in which those funds were donated.

Can and should the Elevator or Library fund balances be appropriated for Project 2020?

We are only able to fund our current building projects as a result of the Festival. Our charitable donation from the Festival revenue is a twenty-year tradition and we give it out of thankfulness to the community that enables us to have successful Festivals year after year.

If charity starts at home, have we considered not donating the portion of Festival revenue to a different
community organization?

We are open to all ideas for fundraising events that would engage the community. If you have a specific idea, please contact Fenia at fenia@msn.com. Ministry organizations are also welcome to organize their own fundraisers to help support the Project 2020 fundraising effort.

What about doing other fundraising events like silent auctions, dinners, car washes, etc.?

Following the precedence of other previous major projects, any budgeted money that is left over after successful completion goes into the general St. Nicholas building or capital improvements fund. There is still is a significant list of repairs, renovations, and upgrades to do after the Narthex, so whatever is left over will be put toward the next most pressing need and opportunity to preserve and improve our church.

What happens with the excess money if the renovation comes in under budget?

This was and continues to be a community effort. Various pre-design and cost studies done over the last five years or so have primarily been approved by the Parish Council and performed by the Building Committee. All major renovations over the last several years have been brought to a General Assembly and approved by the parish. The Narthex renovation follows the same general pattern. A Project 2020 Steering Committee has been formed to facilitate and advise on the Narthex renovation because of the fundraising effort needed and the length of time it will take to implement such a campaign.

Who is in charge of Project 2020?

Below is the seven-person Project 2020 Steering Committee and their primary duties:

  • Father Seraphim: Spiritual Leader, Metropolis Liaison, Architectural Review

  • Andrew Primis: Steering Committee Chair and Project Spokesperson

  • Dr. Nick Themelis: Liturgical and Architectural Review

  • Christina Leinneweber: Treasurer and Financial Reporting

  • Rebecca Primis: Director of Communications

  • Fenia Mavromichali: Director of Fundraising Strategy and Operations

  • Bill Acker: Construction Design, Permitting, and Contract Administration

Who is the Project 2020 Committee?

Last year, Akiyama Architecture, the architect in the Sanctuary window project and assistant in previous pre-design studies, was hired with approval from the Parish Council to come up with a conceptual design for a proposed Narthex renovation under the direction and guidance of the Building Committee, which included the eyes and hearts of Fr. Seraphim and Dr. Nick Themelis.  There are still several details to work out and tweaks to make, along with ultimately getting approval from the Metropolis, but the proposed baseline shape, form, and footprint has long been developed for all to see. It is shown on a display board in the lower hall.

Who came up with the Narthex design?

Yes, with an emphasis on Byzantine architecture when the opportunity arises.  This is one of the many reasons why the conceptual design that has been presented is not intended to be a “we will not be undersold”, cheap looking garage type of renovation.

Is it true the Narthex renovation design requires approval from the Metropolis?

Yes. Below is a list of active smaller projects targeted to be done either before or around September 1 (before intense Greek Festival preparations) or by end of 2017:

1) Re-stripe the north parking lot.

2) Replace carpet in the Narthex and upper hall areas.

3) Paint exterior handrails and an exterior south stair landing outside the Sanctuary.

4) Repair & restore brick work at the Sanctuary south wall where a canopy was removed.

5)  Provide a gravel pathway at the south exterior stair landing.

6)  Short term repairs and aluminum coating at the dining/kitchen roof.

7)  Short term repairs and aluminum coating at the upper hall roof.

Are there any other church repairs or improvements currently in the works?

Following a laundry list that was made up in an extensive 2013 design and cost study report, items still left to be done beyond the Narthex renovation are:

1) Insulate the Sanctuary attic space.

2) Fill in pew spaces within the Sanctuary space with plywood and new finished flooring.

3) Replace cracked plaster finishes at the south exterior Sanctuary wall, and waterproof portions of subgrade surfaces underneath.

4) Tear-off, re-roof and insulate the Dining Hall and Kitchen roofs.

5) Provide a forced-air and ducted heating system in the Dining Hall.

6) Replace lighting and dated finished ceilings in the Dining Hall.

7) Renovate the Upper Hall, similar in scope to what is proposed in the Narthex Renovation.

8) Provide a fire alarm system throughout the church.

9) Construct a north classroom addition.

10) Construct an elevator at the north side of the north addition.

But that was 2013. Time, needs and priorities change. While the process of the Narthex renovation campaign and construction is under way, it is the intent of the Building and Project 2020 Committees to further research and present to the Parish Council and parish at large what are deemed to be the most viable and urgent needs to take care of afterwards, given our limited means and resources. In other words, we have about two and half years to reassess priorities and needs at St. Nicholas so that, when the Narthex is completed, we may with God’s blessings pursue the next set of needs in an intelligent, focused, and efficient manner.

What happens after Project 2020?

While there are many different creative options that could be funding sources, we cannot expect for Project 2020 to be paid for without each of us engaging as members of a family and contributing what we can to the calling at hand. This is going to take a full parish effort, so we invite you to become our partners and to join us in moving this project forward. We have prepared these FAQs to address your concerns, but we are not prepared to carry on without you.

The most immediate ways you can help are:

1) Fill out a pledge card and donate what you are comfortably able to give. The pledge cards give us a general idea of what we can expect to raise over the next two years. On average, if each steward gave $100/month for two years, we could raise most of the funds we need.

2) Inquire, become informed, and in turn, inform others.

3) Share inspirational ideas that may come up.

4) Contact any of the Project 2020 Committee members with any concerns, ideas and/or inspirations.

How can I help?