Updated: Jul 19, 2022
Around 1997 the Unitarian Fellowship, later the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Brazos Valley, learned that 305 Wellborn was on the list to be taken by TxDOT by eminent domain. For two decades we avoided expensive repairs (patched the roof instead of reroofing, etc.). About twenty years later, on 11/18/2016, all but about a half an acre of this property was taken by eminent domain. The remainder property can never be built on as per the fire code of the City of College Station due to insufficient access by fire trucks when the alleyway is closed at Wellborn after highway construction. We now primarily use it to legally ask for parking donations for Aggie home football games.
The Property Acquisition Team (PAT) (that later morphed into the Sacred Space Team) spent over two years looking at available properties with the special help of our UU member/professional realtor, Mary Lind Bryan. (Mary donated her usual realtor fee to the UUCBV.) Two other contracts for different properties fell through and then we reconsidered the 1719 E 29th St property (a vacant lot) whose price had dropped substantially. The property is 2.826 acres, fairly narrow and deep, with attractive trees, a great slope for drainage, and is ideal for the necessary future retention area for rainwater at the rear of the property.
Prior to purchase, we enlisted the help of a civil engineer, Veronica Morgan, to evaluate the property and to check for civil engineering problems. Again, prior to purchase, we had the long property line adjacent to the neighboring pesticide company tested by having a company collect and analyze multiple soil samples for pesticide residues. The tests were within normal limits. With positive initial evaluations and positive feedback from the PAT members, the Board of Trustees (BOT), and the positive vote by the Congregation, we consulted with our attorney and purchased the property on 5/29/2019.
The team met many times and came up with a process to interview and select an architect. Pact Design (Brian Gibbs), was recommended to and approved by the Board of Trustees. Pact Design did a beautiful architectural design.
The PAT team continued the process by interviewing construction companies. Bids came in from construction companies with the lowest bid $1 million over our budget. We selected Keys & Walsh to recommend and our selection was approved by the Board of Trustees as our construction company. Value engineering was studied, ranked, and discussed at great length. In the end, we came up with a plan to cut many non-critical items from our plans while keeping the most important items.
Other professionals were hired by Pact Design for their architectural expertise. We also had several other professionals that did minor work paid for by the church.
Brian Gibbs is contracted to keep tabs on the building progress and to communicate with the construction company while looking out for our interests and making sure that the architectural plans are followed. If an issue comes up, he is to adequately address us and keep us up-to-date on issues.
Ken Appelt, our SST member who is experienced in acoustical matters, is in charge of acoustics for the sanctuary. Ken has generously hired an acoustical engineer to give advice. This advice is being incorporated into the sanctuary plans.
Early work on the property was surveying, land preparation, some tree removal, and installing a water line. Then slab pouring, slab polishing, and erecting steel beams. Curbs and planter beds were installed. Crushed rock was layered on the driveway and parking areas and packed down for the first layer of our future asphalt areas. Steel and wood framing has been done. There is much finish work to be done!
We have been blessed with the generosity of our many donors. We find we have enough in donations to reverse a few of our Value Engineering cuts. We do not want to follow through with our Value Engineering plans and then later pay to remove some construction and build what we prefer.
First on the Docket: The SST wants to return to the original finish out of the front two RE rooms. Shelves, sinks, and counters are to be finished out. This original plan includes a solid wall below and a glass wall above to separate the front two RE rooms. The wall would help keep classroom noise down. A door between these two rooms would be on the NE side of the building on the other side from the doors entering the classrooms. If on occasion a larger room for RE is needed, the Chapel or the multipurpose room could be used. Advantages: This choice would look to the future when we plan to absolutely need three functioning RE classrooms. Noise from the adjacent room should be minimal. RE teachers could see into the adjacent room. Access to children’s bathroom would eliminate children in the front room from having to walk through the hall instead of the door between the front two RE rooms.
Second on the docket is to return to the movable wall between the Sanctuary and the Chapel. (Acoustical curtains may need to be added at our expense?)
Third on the docket is to update the original plans for the Trash receptacle enclosure as to ensure a more sturdy and attractive area.
The above three items increase our expenses by $67,097. (Yes, we can afford this.)
Any projects outside the building can be considered later when we are nearer the end of our building project.
My suggestion: a fenced playground for the children to be planned when the building project is nearly finished.
We should still have a good cushion of funding after:
1) paying our contracts, including architectural, construction, Sauder chairs, and acoustical expenses (targeted), and
2) purchasing a dishwasher; freezer; lighting fixtures; microwave; playground equipment; playground fencing; refrigerator; washer and dryer; and TV/Projector & Screen and Sound Equipment (Targeted).
It is prudent to hold back some funds for a cushion for unexpected expenses. We are in a position to do this with the generosity of our donors and the income from our TxDOT settlement from our 305 Wellborn property earned in our Fidelity account in earlier years.
Other projects that may come later when we are in position financially (in no certain order): back of lot fencing; labyrinth; signage on the building itself; food warmer for casseroles; solar panels, a Memorial Garden, etc. There are also some very limited designated funds in Fidelity apart from the building funds that might be appropriate for a related project. Projects like these should be prioritized and funded with input from the Congregation WHEN we commit to and are able to finance them.
Kathy Wheeler, Chair, SST; Owner’s Agent
SST team members:
Ken Appelt; Owner’s Alternate Agent
Rev. Kiya Heartwood, ex-officio