Report for Congregation – February 11, 2018
Prepared by Board of Trustees Vice President, Dave Stensaas
Today there will be a congregational forum for the purposes of a presentation by architects
from Studio RAD for interior renovation options, and also for the discussion of the proposed
alternatives by those in attendance, after the architect’s presentation. Four distinct alternative
designs have been recommended as viable alternatives to revise the sanctuary space to become
a more distinct, sacred, modern, and attractive space for services and other functions. Other
interior renovation alternatives include flooring, lighting, audio-visual, and decorative elements.
Approximate costs associated with the various alternatives will be presented as well. The
MqtUU’s Board of Trustees (BoT) will record feedback on the design alternatives. The BoT will
follow up with the congregation on next steps after their February board meeting.
Background and Rationale for the Project
At its first two meetings this year, the BoT resolved to undertake a signature project utilizing
funds left to the congregation by the late Joan Steindler, and renovations to the sanctuary were
selected as the project to focus upon. For several years there has been a desire among the
congregation to make updates to the sanctuary of the MqtUU meeting house, probably dating
back to the year that the building was purchased (2007), and that is supported in surveys
conducted by the congregation in 2013 and 2016. For many years there have been attempts to
undertake such a project, but no significant funding was available. The BoT considered that it
would be appropriate that the bequest left to the MqtUU by Joan Steidler would fund all or a
majority of the proposed project elements selected for implementation.
Renovations to the building would not only be an improvement that makes a better “church”
home for members and friends, but would also create a building that is much more attractive for
allied uses that could generate additional revenue for the congregation. The building is in a
residential zoning district, but “churches” frequently conduct a variety of activities aside from
religious services that are usually acceptable in residential neighborhoods, such as weddings,
funerals, classes/training, small conferences, and Room at the Inn. We have requested specific
information on this from Chocolay Township’s zoning administrator, but have yet to receive any
feedback. Constructing a fence along the rear property line to screen activities conducted in the
rear outdoor “open space” would be appropriate to reduce conflicts with neighboring
properties, particularly if a patio were built for more intensive use of the area.
The BoT voted at their regular November meeting (11/18) to go forward with a proposal for
architectural services from Studio RAD (Rom Architecture and Design), to provide design
alternatives that will fit into various budget thresholds, including schematic building plans,
interior computer visualizations showing the volume and organization of space, flooring and
lighting options, and up to 3 plan options and up to 3 revision cycles of the singular chosen
option. The cost of the architectural services was $2,000.
In early November, architect Joy Cardillo from Studio RAD (Rom Architecture and Design) met
with a group of four MUUC members to view the building and hear what ideas the members
had in mind for the project. Approximately 15 members/friends attended that forum on Sunday,
December 10th after the regular service. Many elements of the sanctuary were suggested for
· Creating a more practical and attractive layout for the presentation area at the west end
of the sanctuary, with the change in floor levels being a major design consideration.
· The separation of he sanctuary from the rest of the interior space, particularly at the
threshold of the entrance from the coat room/lobby and the sanctuary
· Flooring, lighting, theater/visual technology, and the sound system.
· Other areas of the building, such as the Religious Exploration (RE) rooms, the
entrance porch, and the rear outdoor open space were suggested for various
improvements as well.
Project Progress and Completion
The design work began with the December 10th comprehensive meeting of the congregation, to
explore purposes, ideas, and desires for the space. The architects then conducted a floor plan
study to discover alternatives for optimal programmatic and design layout.
Several alternatives have been produced for the psychic and/or physical separation/demarcation
of the sanctuary from the rest of the space. Those proposals are attached as an “appendix” of
The commitment to the design services did not commit the congregation to a construction
project, but after a design preference is determined the MUUC will have a well thought-out plan
to execute if and when the congregation decides to go forward with the work.
The Building Dilemma
The MqtUU building is in a declining condition, and the grounds present some problems as well,
such as a parking lot that is too large (for the typical use) to continue maintaining in its entirety.
There is nothing particularly appealing about the building design for a sacred/spiritual use,
either inside or out. The carpet is in need of replacement. There is no separation of areas within
the main buidling, aside from doors to the kitchen, bathrooms, and the addition where RE
classes are conducted. Recently, a new member of the congregation wrote (in an e-mail
message) a rather disturbing but valid opinion of the condition of the building and grounds:
“Right now, unless it is Sunday am, people driving by see a weedy abandoned building that
resembles a closed supper club. When one walks in, the front room looks the funeral room of an
underfunded mortuary. The rest looks like a run-down preschool. It is not a loveable space.”
The importance of an inviting space may be as critical to the future success of the congregation
as anything else, and it is likely one of the three most important elements of the experience that
keeps a typical member or friend coming back to services. But renovating the building isn’t the
only answer to achieving a better space for services. The building could also be sold and the
congregation could relocate. That does not seem to be a choice that a majority of members are
now interested in however.
Updating the building to a significant degree – with some new partition walls inside to separate
the sanctuary, wall treatments at the west end of the sanctuary, a revised floor grade plan, new
flooring, replacing lighting fixtures and installing a “theater system” for video presentation” – will
probably cost between $40,000 and $50,000. Some of the work could be done by members,
such as tearing out old carpet, framing new walls, and painting. The bequest that was gifted to
the MUUC is approximately enough to cover the cost of all of most of the renovations that
would likely be selected.
The congregation needs to determine its priorities and determine if the “signature project” of
renovating the sanctuary is in their best interest at this time. The congregation is facing several
difficult issues, with declining revenue and membership being an overarching factor in all
important decisions. Some people feel investing in the building is likely to be the best way to
increase the appeal of the MqtUU, and with a very good RE program in place, the recent
purchase of “Soul Matters” to assist in service programming, and investigatory steps being taken
to secure part-time ministry the building dilemma is one that needs to be addressed this year.
The BoT needs to hear from every member on this topic if possible, and will be making a
recommendation to the congregation on the project before the end of the school year.