August 28, 2013
Dear Fellow Congregant,
This week, Greenwich Reform Synagogue will file its site plan for 92 Orchard Street with the relevant town agencies, including the Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Agency (IWWA) and the Planning & Zoning Commission. This important step sets forth the parameters of our new spiritual home and describes in considerable detail the building, parking, drainage, and also includes a traffic study. Click here to read a press release we distributed earlier today and click here to view a sketch.
Getting this application ready has been a tremendous effort. Once again, we owe our thanks to Andrew Loebelson, Sandy Soule and the other members of the New Building Committee who have selected the outstanding team of professionals on our team and overseen their efforts with unflagging energy, with sometimes daily contact and innumerous team conference calls and meetings.
As you know, we have reached out to neighbors of the site and continue to do so, including with email contact today to update them and offer dialog. Some, I’m glad to say, have taken us up on that offer, and after dialog indicated that they not only find our project unobjectionable but preferable to other potential uses of the site, such as putting up 4 or 5 houses.
That’s not to say that there won’t be opposition. But it’s worth remembering that with respect to our new spiritual home, GRS is in an extremely strong position-morally (there’s nothing wrong or even unusual about building a house of worship in a residential neighborhood), ethically (we are harming no one in this effort and I believe we will ultimately improve the area), esthetically (the building and its environs will be beautiful) and financially (we have the resources to accomplish this.) So on to the next stage!
President, Greenwich Reform Synagogue
4-25-13: Owner’s Rep and Architect
Owner’s Rep: After hearing construction horror stories from other synagogues we visited, Andrew Loebelson, Marc Abrams and Sandy Soule interviewed a number of owner’s reps, and selected Strategic Building Solutions to help us stay on track and most importantly, on budget and schedule.
Architect: Our architect, Mark Thompson, has added information on our project to his website. Click here to see what the property looks like now; click any of the small photos to enlarge them. One of our first projects will be to tear down the collapsing barn and shed, since their dilapidated condition makes them quite dangerous. An equally important step is to commission a geotechnical survey of the property to obtain information on the physical properties of the soil and rock at the site. That will help us develop an effective plan for excavation of the foundation and basement, plus parking and drainage systems.
Architect and Outreach
Today, we are happy to announce the selection of Mark Thompson as the architect for our new synagogue. The search was extensive and very thorough, and I’m confident that the right choice has been made. Thanks are due to Sandy Soule, Andrew Loebelson, Helen Stark, Wendy Schreiber, Nancy Duffy, Linda Wiltsek, George Toper, Kevin Winpinsinger, Betty Stark, Steve Peters, Sandi Klein, Marc Abrams, and Nancy Korobkin, all of whom participated in the selection process.
Attached are two documents. One is a Press Release which will be distributed to the media later today; in it you will find background on Mark and a link to his firm’s website. The other is an Email sent to neighbors in Cos Cob.
Congratulations to all involved; it’s a great thing for GRS to be moving forward in such a decisive manner.
A new home for GRS: A timeline
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the agreement for the sale of the GRS property at 257 Stanwich Road to the Stanwich School. This summary reviews what has happened during the past year, and outlines what lies ahead for us. For additional details, please click through on the hyperlinked text in the copy below.
Spring, 2012: GRS and Stanwich announced that a sales agreement had been reached; the deal closed in June.
Summer, 2012: Two key committees moved into high gear — the “interim space” and the “site search” committees.
Interim: Under the capable leadership of Helen Stark and Andrew Loebelson, beautiful office and meeting space was located at 1037 East Putnam Avenue in Riverside, while services were scheduled for First Congregational Church in Old Greenwich and Round Hill Community Church in Greenwich. Nancy Korobkin spearheaded the design group that will ensure that Round Hill will be transformed into a sacred Jewish space for upcoming b’nai mitzvah services. GRS President Robert Birnbaum shared these plans last July here.
Site search: An excellent recap of the issues relating to the site search can be found in the President’s Blog, covering both general cost issues (aspirational vs. affordable) as well as such specific requirements as location, access to town sewer and water lines, zoning, etc. Co-chaired by Andrew Loebelson and Sandy Soule, the committee investigated properties from the Post Road to the Merritt, from the Stamford border to central Greenwich, with steep learning curves and more than a few disappointments along the way.
In October, an important milestone was reached when the congregation approved the purchase of land at 92 and 96 Orchard Street in Cos Cob; details here.
Meanwhile, the “site search” committee evolved into the “new building” committee, charged with selecting an architect who could not only build us a beautiful new synagogue on a very tight budget, but who could play a key role in helping us through the approval process.
The architectural search process began with visits to many area synagogues and other buildings in Fairfield and Westchester counties that had recently been expanded, renovated, or built from scratch. A tremendous amount was learned about cost-containment, pitfalls to be avoided, approval processes, and much more. From these visits, a list of recommended architects who were familiar with construction in our area was developed. A Request for Proposal (RFP) was sent to a dozen architects in early October, starting with the following lines:
“George Bernard Shaw defined a miracle as an event that creates faith. Greenwich Reform Synagogue has purchased a new site and, with your help, wishes to build a ‘miracle.”’
Most of the architects who received the RFP responded with a proposal; these were reviewed in depth by the committee. The four top choices were selected to present to the committee in person in early December.
Discussions with numerous architects and engineers made it clear that a feasibility study of the property was essential; we commissioned local civil engineer Tony d’Andrea and architect Mark Thompson to prepare it. The results show the alternatives in terms of how large a building we can build and where on the land we can best position it.
The countless hours spent working on this project taught us a key lesson: the design of the building is just one part of the process. In addition, although the construction is obviously a major expense, site prep, drainage, parking, landscaping, and soft costs are a close second. The town approval process (P&Z, wetlands, architectural review, etc.) and the neighborhood relations must be handled properly, or the project could significantly increase both in cost and time required.
New Building Committee member Marc Abrams is heading up the search to find an owner’s rep (OR) to oversee the project, control costs, and protect the interests of GRS. A half-dozen ORs were interviewed in March and one will be selected soon.
Later this spring, we’ll be able to announce the name of the architectural firm that will design the project, along with the landscape architect, and other key team members.
We will then move forward on many other aspects of the process, including meetings with congregants and neighbors, and preliminary design sketches, and much more.
- December 7, 2013 5:30 pmInspirica Dinner
- December 8, 2013 9:00 amReligious School Breakfast
- December 8, 2013 9:30 amHebrew 102/Torah Study with Rabbi Rothman
- December 10, 2013 7:00 pmChoir Rehearsal
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