By Bob Uphues
A master planning effort begun in 2014 and subsequent capital campaign at St. Mary Parish in Riverside is about to bear fruit. Next summer, parish leaders hope to break ground on a 2,700-square-foot, $2 million office addition on the east side of the church/school complex.
On Dec. 19, church officials will appear before the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission, seeking an amendment to the church's special use permit and obtain a recommendation for zoning variations regarding parking and total impervious surface area.
If all goes well at that hearing, the Riverside Village Board would need to approve the recommendations, which would allow the church to begin construction on the office addition once school lets out next spring.
According to Rev. Thomas May, the pastor of St. Mary's, the office addition, designed to blend in with the design of the original 1927 church, should be able to be completed in about three months.
Completing the office addition will set the stage for the renovation of the rectory, across the street at 126 Herrick Road, which for the past 20 years has doubled as both the priests' residence and the parish office building.
"We want to move the offices out of the rectory and make it a residence for priests, as it was originally intended," May said.
Parish offices were supposed to be built as part of the parish center/gym expansion in 1997, but the project was downsized because of funding and a temporary office solution in the rectory ended up becoming permanent.
When priests leave their rooms in the rectory, they walk into the office area. The living room and dining room are often used for meetings, leaving priests with little privacy. Before May arrived at St. Mary seven years ago, the former pastor lived offsite, in a condominium.
"I think this will create a refuge away from work," May said of the plan.
Two years ago, parishioners at St. Mary's embarked on a "Building for the Future" capital campaign that sought to raise $2.93 million for a multi-pronged plan that included an office addition (originally with a bell tower), renovation of the rectory and a complete renovation of the first floor of the original school building to create multipurpose classrooms, as well as heating and air-conditioning upgrades.
The school renovations are still being planned for the future pending additional fundraising. According to May, parishioners have pledged about $2 million so far.
Plans on file with the village of Riverside's building department indicate that the new addition will include an open office area for parish staff, private offices for the pastor and for small meetings, a large conference room, storage and a reception area.
Two priests, May and Associate Pastor Father Krzysztof Swierczynski, reside at the rectory. The parish has four full-time staff working daily in the parish offices, May said.
The parish's strategic planning effort, which started in 2014, delivered solutions that were far different than the one proposed by former pastor Msgr. R. George Sarauskas in 2007.
Sarauskas proposed selling land owned by the parish to help finance the construction of a new rectory behind the existing rectory. In 2009, the location of the proposed new rectory was shifted to Mary Park, next to the existing rectory, but the plan never materialized.