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After several years of planning and preparation, St. Bonaventure Catholic Church is one step closer to attaining an upgraded look a few years down the road.

“I am very optimistic,” said Project 2020 Chairman Dennis Grennan. “Everybody is starting to get really excited about it after that many (about 10) years of planning. It is going to happen, finally.”

The $5.5-million project consists of expanding the church's entrance, constructing a new parish center and adding additional parking spaces. Officials said they are putting the project up for bid in January 2019 with hopes of breaking ground in March of next year.

Grennan said the majority of the funding stems from parishioners’ generosity and support, in addition to community contributions, land sales and donations from the Knights of Columbus. During the course of the past three years, officials have gathered approximately $4.5 million for the project.

However, they're continuing to accumulate support from parishioners to cover the remaining dollars. The Rev. Mike Swanton announced in a letter that members of the building committee are exploring cost-cutting options for the project.

Those wishing to donate to the church are encouraged to call its office at 402-564-7151.

With additional space, church officials are aiming to build and strengthen the church community. Because the church currently has more than 1,700 members, Grennan said space is becoming limited. This has resulted in space constraints resulting in members having difficulty socializing, as well as larger-scale events being moved outside of the facility.

“We need facilities to help us build a community,” Grennan said. “With no place to gather here, it’s like you’re in church and out.”

Although Project 2020 includes modifications to the St. Bonaventure Elementary School, Grennan said those plans have been put on hold due to insufficient funds.

The Parish Center will be four times bigger – with the addition of meeting and family rooms, a full kitchen and restrooms – than the existing facility. The new center will be able to accommodate up to 350 people, making it the suitable venue for church events, Grennan said. With the help of dividers, the facility can be split up into six meeting rooms.

Grennan said the existing Parish Center – which was built in 1965 – will be taken down early next year along with its side chapel.

It took a lot of persistence for the church to reach this stage.

Grennan said officials spent the last 10 years purchasing 10 homes along 16th Street between 18th and 16th avenues in preparation of the project. With the church owning the stretch of land, it prompted the Columbus City Council to grant approval to close a portion of the street early next year when ground is broken.

Five of the 10 homes are scheduled to be demolished into parking lots, while the remaining five will remain intact, but could be razed for future projects, as needed.

“Right now, this is all we think we need,” Grennan said. “We will see as we go forward. If we need more, we may add more. That’s certainly the future use of this, is parking.”

The parking lots in front of the church will be raised by roughly 4 feet to align with the entrance. Grennan said this will eliminate the need for stairs and make the church more handicap accessible.

Despite the new parking spaces, Grennan said the overall amount remains the same because of the demolition of several lots. However, he said the new additions will provide parishioners and guests a safer place to park their vehicles away from the streets.

“So we are not adding a great deal of spaces, but we are getting them off the street into a parking lot,” Grennan said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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