Entry: September 16, 2019, written by Task Force Member Rick Dahl
Lake Site Findings
As a refresher, the Physical Development Task Force (PDTF) was formed in 2017 at the request of the Vision Board to evaluate the current state and future potential of Easter’s two sites. A comprehensive understanding of these physical assets will provide needed context as the Vision Board evaluates strategic directions for the future of our church.
One of the essential questions was whether Easter continues to operate as a two-site ministry, or if ultimate consolidation to one site is viable. Much of the focus of the PDTF in its first year was evaluating if one of our two sites could accommodate consolidation. An early conclusion was that the Hill site does not have the physical capacity to accommodate building expansion and corresponding parking. The focus of the PDTF then evolved to determine if the Lake site and its supporting infrastructure can accommodate consolidation of all Easter’s programs and worship experiences.
In 2019 we completed several tasks that provided enough context to allow us to wrap up our work and present it to the Vision Board on August 27. Below is a summary of findings and conclusions.
The conclusion is that yes, the Easter by the Lake site can physically accommodate the consolidation of the two locations.
In evaluating the Lake site’s potential, the question of how to accommodate parking has remained a central theme. In 2019 Easter engaged SRF Consulting Group, a planning and engineering firm, to study our site capacity for parking and issues related to traffic flow. They helped us to determine that a parking structure will not be required to accommodate the consolidation of the two locations.
SRF used historic data provided by Easter along with direct on-site observation during worship times to observe traffic and parking patterns. SRF quantified parking utilization for typical months as well as the peak months of December and April (Christmas and Easter). It was interesting to learn that the perception of a parking shortage at Easter by the Lake appears to be worse than reality. SRF’s professional opinion is the current configuration functions very inefficiently. Parking spots are currently found on a trial-and-error basis by driving down multiple aisles with two-way flow. Revising our parking to a one-way flow with angled parking in a prescribed direction leads to optimal efficiency and utilization and can improve pedestrian safety.
The number of parking spaces required by the City is dictated by the number of seats we have in our worship space(s). Correspondingly, the number of worship seats that we’re able to provide is limited by the number of parking spaces we can attain. The City of Eagan requires churches to provide a minimum of one parking space per three worship seats. We chose to use a more conservative ratio of one parking space per 2.5 seats. We are basing planning assumptions on 272 parking spaces, which allows 680 worship seats.
There are several ways in which those 680 seats would be configured. It could, for example, be one large sanctuary of 680 seats, or it might be a 560-seat sanctuary plus a smaller “chapel” of 120 seats. All options would be examined more thoroughly in the future if we were to decide to move forward with consolidation to the Lake site.
Another variable is how we structure worship services. Easter remains committed to continuing traditional and contemporary worship formats. The start times and intervals between services will impact traffic flow patterns. As part of SRF’s traffic analysis they ran hypothetical scenarios forecasting inbound and outbound traffic based on a variety of start times and intervals. This was a helpful exercise and another point of encouragement that illustrates how subtle adjustments can have a favorable impact on peak parking demand.
While it was not in the purview of the PDTF to do a financial capacity analysis, we did learn that to execute the full program of the master plan prepared by HGA would be in excess of $20 million. We believe, however, that there are more affordable solutions that can be achieved in a phased approach. This is another aspect that would be further vetted in future planning efforts.
The PDTF also created a cost model template to use as a planning tool in forecasting operational cost implications and/or savings if we consolidate both campuses on one site. This will be a very helpful tool once we have a more-defined sense of the planning direction and can begin plugging in real numbers. It’s important to remember that doing nothing (i.e. continue to operate as a two-site ministry) is not a “no cost” solution, as we will continue to have operational and capital needs and expenses at both properties.
While we’ve taken this work a long way, we are dependent on the guidance of a Lead Pastor, staff engagement, and congregational input before advancing the work any further. We feel very good about the work of this task force and that of the consultants we hired. We have assembled informative context to our current assets and opportunities for the future and are eager for our new Lead Pastor and the Vision Board to bring clarity to Easter’s next steps.
As always, you may reach out to the PDFT with comments via email at email@example.com.
Entry: November 12, 2018, written by Task Force Member Rick Dahl
Assessing Next Steps
The Physical Development Task Force and the Vision Board held a joint meeting October 15 to review the work to-date of the PDTF and consultant HGA, and to assess next steps. Collectively we reviewed and agreed that the work of the master plan is guided by five primary goals:
- To the maximum extent feasible, create and nourish one congregational culture.
- Establish the image and experience of one Easter Lutheran Church for members and guests.
- Maintain and enhance the worship experience for both traditional and contemporary service styles.
- Create significant spaces for fellowship, education, and outreach programs that support Easter’s long-term vision and mission.
- Address spatial, operational, capital and facility inefficiencies inherent in a two-site ministry.
The PDTF has been asked about specific growth projections and what they may have been based upon. To help bring clarity to this we will be working with a database made available through the Saint Paul Area Synod to look at area demographic trends in the area. While this may show us where pockets of growth in our area are occurring, we know that we are already experiencing visitors turning away due to lack of parking or worship space seating. So, growth may not be defined just by capturing new residents in the area, but also simply by making room for those that are already trying to visit Easter.
Working with architects HGA over these past six months has been very helpful in identifying where our key challenges lie as we consider our options for growth into the future. Perhaps the greatest challenge has revolved around the question: what is the Lake site’s capacity to accommodate a building expansion along with the parking needed to support growth on that site? We are at a point where we need to pull in further professional expertise to identify our site’s capacity in terms optimal number of parking spaces, site ingress and egress, on-site flow, and safety. We are currently in the process of engaging a consultant for that analysis. The outcome of that study will inform what we are ultimately able to achieve in terms of sanctuary capacity and associated parking.
Please continue to watch for PDTF updates and opportunities for congregational engagement. As always, we invite you to submit and comments, questions, or concerns by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entry: July 23, 2018, written by Task Force Member Rick Dahl
We Continue to Move Forward
Some have been asking if the work of the Physical Development Task Force has been suspended until Easter calls a permanent Lead Pastor. It’s a good question, but the answer is no. The PDTF has continued to move forward with our work. While we are between lead pastors the need may be even greater for those in leadership and volunteer positions to step up and keep Easter moving forward. In our role on the PDTF we think about how it relates to facility planning, how we continue to meet the programs Easter offers in serving our multi-generational membership, how we sustain our community outreach programs, and how continue to grow by offering quality worship experiences.
To illustrate some of the primary conclusions we’ve arrived at thus far, I’ll use an analogy. Think of a car maker. I’ll use Ferrari as an example (imagination doesn’t cost anything). They come in black or red. It wouldn’t make sense for Ferrari to manufacture the red Ferrari’s at one plant and the black Ferrari’s at another plant. They’re the same car, just different colors. Similarly at Easter we have two worship formats, yet our chassis is the same and what we have under the hood is no different. Why are we on two sites?
This seems to be the most consistent request we’ve heard from the staff and congregational feedback over the past several months. Ideally we want to see Easter consolidated to a single location, while continuing to offer contemporary and traditional worship formats. We have also heard that the most popular worship times of 9:30 and 10:00 are highly desirable and neither worship group would like to give up those worship times. Consequently, this suggests that we would have two sanctuary spaces on one consolidated site. The limiting factor when it comes to the size of the sanctuaries is parking. The City of Eagan’s requirement for parking is one space per three worship seats.
HGA, the design architect on our master planning work, has prepared a number of preliminary scenarios that address the criteria mentioned above. These are “fit plan” studies not design concepts. They looked at the Hill site’s capacity and concluded that this site clearly cannot support the growth and parking required for full consolidation.
They also prepared two variations of Lake development. One illustrates how much parking would be needed to support two sanctuaries with a total of 1,150 seats. Unfortunately, given our site constraints, this requires a structured parking deck. Knowing that paying for a parking structure is not at the top of most people’s list, we asked HGA to tell us how many sanctuary seats we can accomplish by maximizing surface parking. This study showed that the absolute maximum number of sanctuary seats we can achieve with surface parking is just shy of 900 seats. To offer a little context, the Hill sanctuary currently seats roughly 350, and the Great Room at the Lake seats 400, for a total of 750. Potential growth of 150 to a total of 900 is a very modest goal, and perhaps not ambitious enough to justify such an investment.
We have also asked HGA to show us what an ideal (hypothetical) site would look like in order to get to a goal of 1,150 seats. We look forward to seeing the results of that study in mid-August.
All of this is of course a work-in-progress. We don’t feel that there is any risk of “throw-away” cost associated with these studies and the results will remain valid work once we have a new Lead Pastor. There is a lot to sort out and there remain more questions than answers, but these are necessary questions that need to be studied. We are eager to review this with the Interim Pastor when they settle in at Easter, and will likely share the work at congregational forums in the fall.
It’s important to remember that the work of the PDTF is only master planning. There are no immediate plans for implementation nor anticipation of a capital appeal in the near-term. These are matters that would certainly need to happen under the leadership of a Lead Pastor. As always, we invite comments or questions to the PDTF via email at email@example.com.
Entry: April 25, 2018, written by Task Force member Rick Dahl
We are pleased to announce that after a rigorous selection process, including review of proposals from five qualified firms and interviews with four, the PDTF forwarded a recommendation to select HGA as the design firm to assist Easter with master planning services. The Vision Board unanimously approved the recommendation and we have begun our engagement with HGA. HGA’s team is led by Nancy Blankfard, Principal / Project Manager, and Todd Kraft, Project Designer.
For many the term “architect” conjures up images of blueprints and construction. We’re not there yet! There is much to do to establish the framework for our future before we proceed with design and construction. For this engagement HGA’s services include:
- Condition Assessment
- Cost Assessment
- Final Report
Many of you, whether staff or membership, participated in forums with the PDTF over the past several months offering your input on what is working well at Easter as well as what needs improvement. Much of that is summarized in previous blogs (see below). We have shared an expanded summary of that work with HGA and they were quite complimentary that this work provides them with good insight that they don’t often see at this early stage of planning. So, we’re off to a solid start with the Programming piece.
The next steps at our next meeting with HGA include:
- Review space needs list
- Review space diagrams
- Review condition assessment findings
- Discuss site analysis
Our work with HGA will carry on through the summer and into the fall. Keep your eye on this blog page and other announcements in regard to progress on this work. As always, you may reach out to the PDFT with comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entry: March 19, 2018, written by Task Force member Sheryl Johnson
Compiling Input and Moving Forward
The PDTF has thoroughly enjoyed reaching out to the congregation to glean insight on how our facilities dovetail with the vibrant mission of Easter Lutheran Church. Realizing that Easter is buzzing seven days a week, we are trying to get our arms around the complex utilization of our facilities.
A prior blog highlighted our “Let’s Be Visionary” interviews with Easter staff and ministry leaders. In addition to hosting congregation wide forums (at both the Lake and Hill), as well as connecting with various external ministry organizations who use our facilities, we have also met with several individual groups for more in-depth conversation: JAM (church school) leaders, Confirmation mentors, Easter Choir, Messengers. The key questions revolved around how these groups interact with the facilities—what works well and dreams for improvement. Also the “blessings and barriers” of one site vs two site ministry.
We are trying to categorize the extensive feedback into Tangible/Quantitative issues (Property and Space, Business Operations, Programs and Outreach), as well as Intangible/Qualitative issues (People and Culture, Church Services, Planning and Growth). As you can imagine, the lists are long, detailed and full of thoughtful perspective. Topics revolve around (in no specific order) congestion and flow, music styles, meal events, feel of environment, flexibility, rehearsal spaces, storage, fellowship, technology, traditional worship, contemporary worship, set up/take down, sense of community, sight-lines, right-sized spaces, cultures, sacred spaces, learning, amplification, confusion, acoustics, vibe, all ages, outdoor spaces, natural light, parking, prime times, growth, mission, sustainability, efficiencies, serving others, accessibility, property and so on.
We have just completed our RFP review and interviews with selected architectural firms, all who have church expertise, as well as strength and experience in Master Planning. In addition to assessing our current facilities, these professionals will incorporate the detailed data compiled from our recent forums, interviews, surveys, etc. We look forward to working with one of the firms during the next 4 months to help guide us in creating a living Master Plan for the future. We will keep the congregation involved and informed during this process and continue to welcome input.
It’s exciting to have opportunities to identify needs, as well as to celebrate the ongoing excellence and faith-inspired ministry at Easter. As a task force member, I have been amazed and inspired by the breadth of facility/campus utilization. Thank you for your valuable feedback and suggestions. And please keep your thoughts coming! (Email communication via email@example.com.)
Entry: January 16, 2018, written by Task Force member Rick Dahl
Update and Next Steps
There’s been no time off for the Physical Development Task Force (PDTF). November and December were busy, including meeting with an ELCA Mission Investment Fund representative to hear their perspective and advice on issues related to long term planning of church facilities. This included suggestions related to communications, context to the challenges and opportunities Easter is fortunate to have, reminders to always keep the focus on the mission, and some general guidance in terms of process, timeline, and costs to anticipate.
Two congregational forums were held in November, titled “Blessings and Barriers”. We were pleased to see a good turnout for these events. In late January we will be facilitating similar discussions with a various target groups at Easter including the Choir, The Messengers, Church School teachers, and Confirmation Mentors. When completed we will compile the results and summarize them in February’s blog.
The operational analysis has progressed and a cost model has been started projecting operational costs into the future.
The PDTF has reached a point where it is time to engage professional assistance to advance the work that has been completed to-date. A Request for Proposal (RFP) is being issued to architectural firms for master planning services. The scope of this work includes no specific building projects at this stage, but will guide Easter in shaping a long range master plan for the future. It’s important to remember that a cornerstone objective in the planning is to maintain both traditional and contemporary worship formats. Working with the PDTF, the architect will evaluate our assets on the two sites, develop options on how our property can best serve Easter’s mission into the future, and construct an implementation framework aligning costs and phasing strategies. Final selection of the architectural firm is anticipated for March, following review of proposals and interviews.
As always, feel free to share questions or concerns with via the PDTF email address at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just click on the green button on the top of this page.
Entry: October 26, 2017, written by Task Force member Rick Dahl
Summarized Survey Results (Staff and Ministry Leaders)
A second round of interviews was conducted with Easter staff. The theme for this round was “Let’s Be Visionary”, prompting our staff to balance their responsibility as stewards of the church, with aspirational stretches toward what could be. It was an interesting exercise as it took a different approach than round one but produced fundamentally similar results in terms of facilities. The top 11 facilities concerns include:
- Lack of storage.
- Set up and tear down requirements due to conflicting uses in shared spaces.
- Age-related barriers. The Hill has more child-friendly spaces while the Lake has higher attendance by young families. The Lake is not as accessible as the Hill for seniors.
- Limited parking and congested drop off/pick up at the Lake.
- Overlapping use of spaces. Examples include the band and confirmation using the Great Room at the Lake, meal service and adult learning overlapping use of the Community Room at the Lake, and Pre-school cannot use the Fellowship Hall for large motor activity when funerals are competing for the same space.
- Lack of right-sized and properly equipped rooms at both sites.
- Inadequate spaces to support outreach efforts.
- Lack of welcoming spaces deter fellowship before and after services (both sites).
- Inefficiencies operating two sites (staffing, operations, clarity, confusion).
- Acoustics for two worship styles in conflict. Contemporary music with amplifiers wants to dampen the space while traditional music favors a lively sound.
- Technology is not good at the Lake (Wi-Fi, cellular signal).
The next and very important step in our Task Force’s efforts is to solicit input from our congregational membership. We have scheduled two venues for this:
- November 19 10:35 The Lake
- November 26 11:05 The Hill
The Task Force will offer a synopsis of the our group’s charge, work completed to-date and timeline of work remaining. We will provide context to the history of facilities expansions at Easter over the decades. We will then facilitate an interactive discussion titled “Blessings and Barriers”, which seeks to hear from our congregation about the potential and pitfalls in regard to how our facilities support our mission. All are welcome at either event (regular Lake worshipers may attend the Hill event and vice versa).
And, as always, you are welcome to share comments via email with the Physical Development Task Force at email@example.com.
Entry: September 19, 2017, written by Task Force member Rick Dahl
Initial Survey Results (Staff and Ministry Leaders)
Record setting attendance at Easter recently has heightened this group’s awareness of the need to evaluate Easter’s facilities. In many ways we are bumping up against our capacity and do not want this to impact the growth potential of our mission and ministries. So, our work continues, with a measured sense of urgency.
Recent work by the Physical Development Task Force includes issuing a survey to Easter staff and ministry group leaders. The survey was distributed via Survey Monkey and asked questions about how our facilities at the two sites support the work of staff and of each respective ministries. Key themes that emerged from the survey results include:
- There is a lot of competition for use of prime spaces, which is compounded by the logistics of room set-up and take-down
- We have a need for improved technology, especially at the Hill
- There are issues with noise and congestion at the Lake
- There are operational inefficiencies and duplications
- Visitors are often confused by the two sites
- We have a need for rooms to accommodate specific functions
- Storage, storage, storage!
We will be following up with face-to-face conversations with the respondents to bring more clarity to their ideas and concerns. We will also be expanding our survey audience to include members of the congregation, as well as our community partners.
We are also moving along with the operational assessment – overlaying the two campuses to evaluate space utilization, expenses, real estate valuations, and projected deferred maintenance costs.
As we were walking out of the Hill at the end of a recent PDTF meeting, where we discussed the survey results noted above, we encountered two separate visitors who were in search of a community event which was scheduled for the Lake. While we found humor in the irony that we were just discussing confusion, it affirmed that these are real and immediate concerns that need to be addressed (and yes, we did guide the visitors to their correct destination).
If you have comments or questions for the Physical Development Task Force, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entry: July 24, 2017, written by Task Force members Rick Dahl and Angie Swetland
Some of the fundamental questions under consideration include:
Will Easter continue to operate as a two campus church or is consolidation to one campus still an option?
If we were to consolidate to one site what would become of the other site?
How do the near term and long term costs of our options compare?
These questions are complex and the answers are not simple. While we explore these and other questions we will view it in the context of Easter’s commitment to maintaining and growing both our traditional and contemporary expressions of worship.
To begin to bring some clarity to these questions the Vision Board appointed a Physical Development Task Force (PDTF). The members of the PDTF bring a mix of expertise in areas including banking, business consulting, city administration, design, and property ownership and management, all under the spiritual guidance of Pastor Kris to keep us grounded in God’s work.