Trinity tower comes into focus

| 23 Feb 2016 | 11:41

On Saturday morning, architects, parishioners, community members and lower Manhattan residents gathered in St. Paul’s Chapel to discuss the vision for Trinity Church’s new parish building.

The existing building, on Trinity Place across from Trinity Church, has been cleared for demolition. Built in 1923, it no longer serves the needs of the church and the community. A new tower will be built in its place.

The weekend meeting was the fifth in a series of community “charrettes” — collaborative forums to address the needs and wants of the church and of the lower Manhattan community as a whole.

“In our initial charrettes we talked about how we wanted this parish building to be a home for the spiritual, for the homeless and for the neighborhood,” said the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, Trinity Wall Street’s rector.

“We talked about ministry activities. What they would be, how they would look,” Lupfer said. “We conducted a market study in order to objectively understand neighborhood needs and desires as well as parish hopes and dreams.”

He said the church community’s vision embraces a philosophy for hospitality that is “open, flexible and welcoming.”

“We want it to be visible from the street, accessible to the community, and active and purposeful. We will have programming such as meditation classes, pre-k sign ups, music arts, and more.”

On Saturday, the conversation pivoted into design sketches, room layout proposals and graphics displaying how the architects could turn these ideas into a real structure.

“Charrettes are like religion for architects. They reveal our dedication and our faith, but also our transparency,” said Fred Clarke, founding member of Trinity selected architectural firm Pelli Clarke Pelli. “We want to show [the community] what has been going on.”

The proposed building will be mixed-use, with the first five levels open to the public, levels six to eight consisting of Trinity staff offices, and levels 10 and up a for-rent office tower.

“The building will have three public fronts,” Clarke said. “Every space will be effectively used, with double and triple function.”

There will be a large and open parish hall, rooms for visual arts and music, classrooms for education and youth, a studio for dance and movement classes, and a full-sized gymnasium. The lower levels will contain several multipurpose lobbies, a café and bookstore, and an open stairwell connecting the different levels.

“This design puts activity on display,” Clarke said. “We asked how you envisioned this space and you told us to make it light and airy, modern, transparent, open and inviting.”

He said the design, however modern, would complement a traditional church structure, with the parish hall’s large windows opening up onto the church grounds and serving as a connection between the old and the new.

“This has been a very thorough and thoughtful process to define a building. It has taken a long time to evolve and mature,” Clarke said. “We are now in a transitional moment, where we develop the implications for the architecture and design.”

A full-size gymnasium was implemented into the provisional designs after market research indicated wellness as a growing area of community need.

Tricia Joyce, chair of the Youth and Education Committee for Community Board 1, was particularly concerned with the current lack of recreation facilities for youths in lower Manhattan.

“In the financial district we have nine schools and only two regulation-sized gymnasiums,” Joyce said. The church hopes to accommodate partnerships with local schools.

Other residents were concerned about the effects of the project’s construction on the already noise polluted financial district.

“Although this will be a great addition to the community when it is finished, we can’t even sleep at night with all the construction already going on,” said resident Jim Gibb. “There’s no end in sight for the next five years.”

The church hopes to ease people’s concerns by working with them on these issues, the public charrettes being their initial endeavor to create an open dialogue with members and residents.

“In all the years I’ve been doing this, we have never seen outreach on a construction project like we have on this one,” Joyce said. “It was a thrill to see a lot of the great ideas take shape.”

With one more charrette scheduled, the church hopes to present the final designs in a celebratory gathering this fall.

Not only for church members, Lupfer called the future building a “living room for the community”.

“We want to be very inclusive,” he said. “We want to work with the community as it evolves and changes, and to build a building that is not only beautiful for now but that also speaks for the ages.”