COLUMBIA — On the southwest side of Parkade Baptist Church, the mounds of dirt and heavy construction equipment might catch your eye before the church steeple does.
The equipment is in place for a $2.1 million construction project that has been in the planning stages for four years at the church at 2104 N. Garth Ave.
The project will add 12,000 square feet to the church, including a large lobby area called a narthex, three classrooms, a fellowship hall and a kitchen. It will also revamp the circle drive, as well as create a new covered entrance to the building.
Ground was broken in August, and the completion date is set for May 2012.
"It’s been a long time coming, but we finally do have it coming now," church business administrator Gary Tynes said..
Fundraising for the project began in January 2010 with a "Journey Into the Future" campaign. The plan calls for $900,000 to be raised by April 2013. As of May, the project was $213,702 short, according to a progress report from the stewardship committee.
Construction has reduced parking space at the church by one-third, Tynes said, but Parkade Elementary School allows members to use its parking lot. A shuttle is available to take people from the lot at the school to the church.
The expansion will help alleviate a space shortage at the church, which currently holds Sunday school classes in rooms created by temporary walls.
Alberta Gilpin, the director of education and ministry at the church, said the church has been running out of space, especially for classes. As a rule of thumb, she said, when space reaches roughly 80 percent capacity, there’s a risk of losing people.
The congregation hopes the addition will promote a steady growth rate.
Parkade Baptist Church was originally built in 1966 and currently has 525 members. There's also a strong population of about 125 who attend church services but are not members, Tynes said.
"We’ve seen statistics that when you build something like this, membership could grow as much as 25 percent in a year," he said.
The added space is also designed to meet the needs of community outreach. Programs such as the church's Thanksgiving dinner are currently held at an off-site location because there isn't enough space. The new fellowship hall will allow for community and church events to be housed on-site.
Gilpin said the process includes feedback from the congregation, and the congregation is generally excited about the project, despite limitations on parking during construction.
"I haven’t heard a negative note anywhere. Everyone’s been waiting for this moment, it’s a very exciting time," she said.
For now, the congregation faces another six months of construction, but Gilpin said the timing was right.
"After much prayer and study and meetings … we felt like God was telling us to do this."