This winter’s deep-freeze and Snowmageddon isn’t near enough to chill the fervent Dexter United Methodist Church (DUMC) construction/renovation project.
The Church is in the chilly midst of a building project that includes a new larger and updated kitchen, lounge-type neutral spaces for relaxing, renovated transitional areas and the pièce de résistance – a 12,000-square-foot multi-use room, all of which is being constructed with the community in mind.
The multi-million dollar project is being built by the Aspen Group out of Frankfurt, IL, who specializes in helping churches envision their ministry and then plan out a facility that can execute that mission within the church’s budget. Aspen’s on-site foreman for the DUMC project, Bob Holland, took a few minutes to talk with me about his current project here in Dexter and his work in the business of building churches.
Bob has covered a lot of territory in his career as a contractor. “I’m originally from Missouri (pronounced “mah-zure-rah”), the Ozarks actually,” he says with an easy-going drawl. “After getting married, we moved to the Indianapolis area where we’ve lived for the last forty-years.”
What first drew Bob into church construction was a project up in Alaska. “I started my career out as a drywall contractor,” he explains. “Then I moved into construction superintendent overseeing the construction of multi-family apartment units in the Indianapolis area. I got a chance to build a small bible college up in Anchorage Alaska which I really enjoyed and thought if there was a way, maybe I could make a living doing this.”
Bob was able to do just that and has spent the last fourteen years building, remodeling and expanding churches with the Aspen Group who only builds churches and nothing else. “Aspen takes a church’s project from conception through build,” he explains.
He continues: “Aspen is a design build contractor. They ask the church, ‘What is your vision? Where do you want to go with your ministry?’ Aspen then designs a facility, expansion or remodel that fits within their building budget.”
In DUMC’s case, the church wanted to put their resources into a facility that would serve the community in a variety of ways, such as a large hall to comfortably accommodate events like funeral dinners and wedding receptions along with an adequate kitchen to safely prepare the food for big gathers. Other possibilities being tossed around for the space are ideas like having days when mom’s or dad’s can get out of the house and have a place for their kids to run a bit and play, community dinners, and game nights.
“The folks here at Dexter Methodist have designed this hall for people, whether they attend church or not, to just come and relax,” Bob says. “It’s a recreation room but not really a gymnasium. It’s a place intended to relax and have fun.”
Holland’s experience says that what DUMC is doing with their multi-purpose room is unique in the church world. In his travels, Bob has seen churches build one big hall and then use it for church and other events as well. Every transition between meetings involves a lot of setting up and tearing down. “Or maybe they build a sanctuary and then also use it as a social hall,” he says. “But again, it all depends upon what you’re trying to accomplish with the money you have to work with.”
Before the construction project at DUMC is completed, it is already having a positive impact on the area. “This project has quite a few local contractors,” Bob says. “In fact all but maybe two or three are from around here.” That means that most of the $4.5 million project is being spent in the local economy.
The construction teams have been working hard to make up for time lost during the approval process. The beloved Newkirk Hall, a carry-over from the days when the property was a Boy Scout camp, has been razed to clear space for the new kitchen and multi-purpose room.
Working through the Michigan winter weather, the construction crew is currently digging the basement for the new hall. Bob showed me the shoring towers holding the huge support beams (coincidentally laid out in a cross), that have been set up to hold up the educational building while they dig underneath it for about ten feet to connect old basement to new basement.
Bob has been here on-site since last August when the approval process first began and he will see the project through to completion. He expects construction to be completed somewhere around mid-September if they stay on their current timeline.
If you would like to learn more about DUMC and their many projects, you can find it on their website.