Renovation of existing structure will increase space for worship and social services

In the Centennial neighborhood off Southeast Division Street, a $3.9 million redevelopment project is helping the clergy service its congregation.

An 8,500 square foot project, the St. Joseph Building Project is in the midst of expanding and renovating the church and its parish center.

"It's going very well," said David Mastroieni, project manager. "Both players (Grant Company and Di Loreto Architecture) have a considerable amount of experience within the archdiocese projects, and have worked together on St. Edwards in Kaiser."

The St. Joseph's project is almost halfway complete, and ahead of schedule for its December completion date.

"Basically what we're doing is a remodel of our existing church," Mastroieni said. "We're adding seating and an adoration chapel, a baptismal font and other features, and we're also remodeling our social area which will include a new commercial kitchen."

The church was running out of space for faith classes, education program, youth groups and social justice ministry which provides food, clothing and monetary assistance. Volunteers from the parish donated 3,000 pounds of food a year through the St. Vincent DePaul program, which serves 200 households each month.SUBMITTED: COURTSEY OF DI LORETO ARCHITECTURE - Though the initial task was to design a new church, the solution became to bookend the existing low ceiling sanctuary with rectangular additions. This increased its size by moving all the ancillary spaces into the new additions.

St. Joseph has 1,100 active parishioners that come to mass, religious education classes, social gatherings or participate in community service.

It's easy to tell the place needed an expansion — at Sunday masses, the 1957 sanctuary is standing-room-only out into the narthex. Closed-circuit TVs beam the service to a crowded Social Hall. The kitchen and hall were located in the basement, making hospitality difficult for those unable to use stairs.

The expansion and renovation intends to increase seating in the worship space, increase the hall and kitchen size, add accessibility to all uses and allow for a greater visibility.

The need

In the Centennial neighborhood, the need includes overcrowding and helping those in poverty (along with evangelization).

According to its website, the church cannot accommodate the growing community. It's seeing overcrowded masses and social parish events limited by size and inaccessible to people with disabilities.

In the East Portland community, 80 percent of the youth qualify for free and reduced lunches in the school system. About 15,000 kids under 18 live in poverty and 60 percent of the community are racial minorities.

$4.1 million has already been raised to build the church and donations are still being accepted online at

"The area serves Southeast Portland east of 122nd, so in that area we have economically challenged pockets of Portland that really need a place they can go to from a spiritual standpoint, as well as we see the systems in various programs," Mastroieni said. "We want to make sure we have a beacon of light for the East Portland community, it's a very important aspect for people to come and worship."

St. Joseph hosts meals for its community quarterly at the church.

"We have a very good St. Vincent DePaul program within our parish that provides food to people who sign up for that program within the area. We also provide community dinners a couple times a month to low-income housing people," Mastroieni said. "The emphasis on the poor will continue to be a huge part of what we do as a parish."

The design

Di Loreto Architecture was founded in Portland, and designing churches became a cornerstone of the firm. It master-plans religious and non-denominational institutions as well as nonprofits.

Five people from Di Loreto worked on the plans for St. Joseph's, including Associate Director Stephanie Fitzhugh.

"What's interesting about the site, when it was how it was, when you went out there it was a low-roofed building, kind of long, looked like a school — you'd go out there and wonder where the church was. You couldn't exactly tell," Fitzhugh told the Business Tribune. "Adding volume to the building with the additions we're putting on say 'Here's the church,' some vertical elements make it stand out and be separated from the rest of the building to make it look a little more spiritual."

The initial idea for the project was a lot bigger than the remodel scope, which in total is 8,500 square feet.SOURCE: DI LORETO ARCHITECTURE - Stephanie Fitzhugh is the associate director of Di Loreto Architecture.

"This project started originally as a whole new church. When we priced it and did some fundraising things, they realized they weren't going to be able to raise the money," Fitzhugh said. "We came back and said what if we tried to remodel your church and did some additions onto that? I think this will suit them, is approachable and fits with their neighborhood."

The basement community space was moved to an at-grade hall, remodeled to be larger. The ceiling was raised in the narthex, and the sanctuary space's center aisle was opened up while seating was added in expansions to the sides.

"The Church itself, they really love their building as it was and wanted to keep the intimate feel," Fitzhugh said. "The things we did were interventions on the building. We didn't want to completely change everything, they liked how close everybody felt."

Fitzhugh said they prioritized maximizing the fund-raised budget, stretching it with creative space solutions.

"I think it will be a great addition to the Southeast Portland neighborhood," Fitzhugh said. "A lot more people are moving out there, I think you'll see younger people moving to that area."

The work

St. Joseph the Worker was originally founded on 10 acres in 1955. Because of its growth and outreach, the demand for more space is undeniable.

Major components of the construction going on this July include framing in the sanctuary and social room, backfilling the stormwater retention area on the south side of the property, preparing the water line into the new church and connecting the new sewer line.

"There are so many different elements to this project — the spiritual aspect of it, to make sure that we're doing everything liturgically correct — and then there's also the other aspect which is space in the social room, which will be multipurpose," Mastroieni said. "You can have dinners there as well as meeting space, that type of thing. It's going to be a very functional room for conferences."

Plans include expanding the sanctuary to seat 600 people, add an adoration chapel, install new roofing, mechanical and electrical systems, adding natural lighting and expanding the cry room, baptismal font and narthex.

As for the social hall, its seating will be expanded to fit 200 people with a full commercial kitchen, natural lighting and updated flooring and painting.

Occupying the building during the renovation is the most challenging part of a project that's going very smoothly — besides being ahead of schedule, the donations also surpassed the estimated project cost.

"We're occupying the facility and the school for masses and meeting space, so we're always making sure that everybody is in a safe environment and able to access the building and that type of thing," Mastroieni said. "We're always working with the contractor on that."

New stained glass windows will be added, with a new confessional and sacristy area. The parking lot will be resurfaced and a bell tower will be added.

"I think we're doing very well from a schedule and budget standpoint," Mastroieni said. "We've overwhelmingly had so much support within the community, it's been wonderful — even people from outside our community."

There are plans for a dedication mass in January, with the Archbishop.

By Jules Rogers
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