Case Studies

The First Baptist Church of Dallas: Reverently Updating a Downtown Landmark

  • Written by: The First Baptist Church of Dallas: Reverently Updating a Downtown Landmark
  • Produced by: The First Baptist Church of Dallas: Reverently Updating a Downtown Landmark
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The First Baptist Church of Dallas, pastored by Dr. Robert Jeffress, serves a congregation of roughly 10,000, which is a far cry from the handful of worshippers who began the church in 1872. The current campus barely meets the needs of the growing congregation, therefore the church — the oldest in Dallas — is on its way to creating an expansive spiritual oasis in the heart of downtown. More than $123 million has already been committed to the project. Manhattan Construction Co., a company known for its expertise in highly complex projects, was selected to build the enormous project that is located in a dense area of downtown Dallas.

Manhattan Construction Co. was founded in 1896 in what would become Oklahoma prior to its statehood, and holds the first corporate charter to be issued in Oklahoma. Manhattan opened its first office in Texas in 1942 and maintains full services offices in Dallas and Houston. Since then it has expanded nationally and has offices in Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C. Manhattan is among the largest privately held, American-owned construction firms in the Western Hemisphere. The company is recognized among the top general builders nationally and is responsible for building some of the country’s most notable structures, including Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Reliant Stadium in Houston and the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.

Building a Legacy

Although Manhattan receives a great deal of public recognition for its high-profile sports projects, it may surprise some to know the company has an enormously diverse and solid portfolio spanning multiple sectors including healthcare, government, corporate education, laboratory, aviation, transportation, convention, casino and hospitality facilities. Manhattan’s portfolio contains nearly 70 projects in the religious sector alone.

Given Manhattan’s combined experience, the company was well positioned to take on a highly complicated, multiphased project like the redevelopment of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. “It is an incredible honor to serve on a project that will have such a positive impact on the community it serves,” asserts Scott Pitt, a senior project manager at Manhattan and lead project manager on the project.

Limited site access in the heart of downtown Dallas is among the primary challenges for this project. It has impacted everything from material deliveries to equipment and subcontractor management. Even so, Manhattan has kept the project on schedule, and the even delivered the seven-story parking garage ahead of the original timeline to accommodate the church’s needs. The new Horner Parking Garage provides more than 500 spaces for parishioners, guests and leased tenants; it was unveiled with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 30, 2012.

The new campus, which aims for LEED Silver certification, provides a 178,000-square-foot, 3,000-seat Worship Center in which regular services will be held; houses a state-of-the-art broadcast and studio space; and supports administrative space required for the function of church.

Elsewhere on campus, a 98,513-square foot education center will be constructed holding 60 classrooms designed to accommodate different age groups, six nurseries, a 6,500-square foot gymnasium and four auditorium spaces. The education building and worship center building are separated by St. Paul St. To provide access from one facility to the other, a skybridge is being built connecting the second floor of each building.

A 40-foot tall water feature, topped with a stainless steel cross that extends an additional 30 feet, bringing the entire feature to an elevation above grade to 70 feet. Within the basin of the water feature will reside a space that allows the congregation to hold outdoor baptisms. This water feature anchors the central plaza of the campus, which is surrounded by landscaping beds and decorative concrete.

One of the challenges at the forefront of the project is the fact that the new construction not only abuts the 100-year-old historic landmark sanctuary, but requires Manhattan to manage the daunting task of demolishing a building that was attached to this landmark as well.

A New Age of Worship

The new campus is packed with a cornucopia of advanced technologies to enhance the church’s services and expand its reach. “In the main sanctuary worship center, we are installing an ultra-wide 150-foot by 13-foot projection screen, utilizing seven, 18,000 ANSI lumen DLP projectors edge-blended to provide a seamless image,” adds Pitt. “It’s my understanding that this combination has actually never been done before, so it’s very cutting edge and will provide an amazing experience to the congregation for years to come.

Completion is set for Easter Sunday 2013, but First Baptist has already marked milestones with smaller celebrations along the way. The largest event held to date was amidst the implosion of five buildings, a process required to make room for the new campus buildings. On October 30, 2010, an implosion ceremony was held, with former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert in attendance.

“At the church’s request, there was a beam-signing ceremony for the congregation in October 2011, where the congregation was invited to sign some of the last steel beams to be placed on the structure, which were specially painted a bright yellow at the church’s request,” adds Pitt.
Under the tight site conditions there is very limited space for staging materials, which required an immense amount of coordination on Manhattan’s part, says Pitt.

“We have monitored and managed our material deliveries very closely to maintain a smoothly operated site for our subcontractors and the community, because a hiccup on a site like this one could create huge traffic jams on city streets,” admits Pitt. Manhattan coordinated closely with local street and city officials, submitting plans well ahead of the week’s activities and providing updates along the way should those plans change, according to Pitt.

A Communal Epicenter

The project also required intensive coordination with the mechanical, electrical and plumbing [MEP] trades. “We knew we would be using building information modeling [BIM] from the very beginning,” states Pitt. “That component is already complete, but the process only confirmed how important it was for us to choose subcontractors with extensive experience using BIM in addition to building comparable projects.”

At the end of the day, Pitt is not surprised that the project is on track to deliver by its original deadlines, since Manhattan and his own personal project management approach rely on company’s processes, close coordination and communication. “You’re only as successful as the subcontractors selected to perform the work, and with six months left on the project it looks as though the right subcontractors were chosen to perform the work based on bids and qualifications,” admits Pitt.

The First Baptist Church of Dallas has been at the heart of downtown Dallas since its inception, and the new campus will only further cement its place at the heart of the community. In the process, Manhattan Construction Co.’s success on this project further reinforces its reputation as a client-oriented company working in the best interests of the communities it helps shape.

Published on: March 12, 2013

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