In Fall of 2017, the Diocese of Portland chose Ouellet Construction to be the general contractor for the community center currently being built on the campus of St. John the Baptist Church and St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick, ME.
Fast forward about five months, and the progress on this exciting project is remarkable!
We’ve been working closely with Nate Libby Masonry, Novel Iron Works, Ray Labbe & Sons, and Al’s Plumbing. The building is starting to take shape. We enjoy working on projects like this, where we get to interact with other local service providers to produce what we hope will become a historic landmark in the Brunswick community.
As with many of the projects we take on, we were hired to help construct a facility that will fulfill a strong need within our community. Sometimes our clients need to build an addition to an existing building; sometimes they need minor or major renovations; and in some cases, they need to expand their facilities and add entirely new structures.
In the case of All Saints Parish, they needed a multipurpose community space which was previously fulfilled by other buildings in the community, but that the parish felt should be erected next to the church for convenient accessibility.
The Need: A Space to Hold Parish Events and Activities
Plans to build the community center began back in Spring of 2016, as the need for the center became imminent. In 2016, the Bangor Daily News reported that before 2014 the parish used the Brunswick Recreation Center or the lower level of the church for St. John’s 132-year-old parochial school exercise and other activities.
However, when the recreation center was relocated it was determined that the lower level of the church was no longer suitable due to fire safety issues, St John’s lost access to a proper gymnasium and activity center. The parish and community decided it was finally time to invest in a community/event center for the church and St. John’s.
The Solution: A Multi-Use Event Center
The plans were submitted to the town of Brunswick in 2016, and included the following:
Phase 1: Events Center
- Fully-equipped cafeteria
- A stage for school presentations
- Music room
- Locker rooms
- Meeting room
- Adoration Chapel
Phase two plans included the erection of a 13,200-square-foot building on 4.68 acres owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
How This Project Differs from Others We’ve Worked On
This project is different in many ways from a lot of projects we’ve worked on in the past, and for a variety of reasons.
Sheltering the concrete from the weather was something we have had to do based on the time of year, adding an extra element to the project scope, as it was crucial to keep the concrete above freezing during frigid temps.
Unlike some of our other recent projects, the All Saints Parish project requires structure load-bearing masonry towers, which we constructed ahead of the structural steel. Gymnasium structures also come with unique elements such as long trusses.
We built the towers in staggered pairs, with two of the towers constructed at any given time. To do this successfully and without disaster requires specific and high-quality equipment, careful coordination, in-depth expertise, and strict adherence to safety protocols, as you might imagine.
The building is multifunctional in that it provides space for a variety of purposes, one of which includes functioning as a gymnasium. Achieving floor flatness is crucial for gymnasiums, the process for which requires a very detail oriented operations and planning. Ouellet plans to user laser screed technology to accomplish floor leveling, as excessive pouring increases the chances of the floor not being level.
The building will also be used as a “Gymnatorium,” so in addition to there being a flat section for exercise activities, we are also building a stage section. With this project, we are dealing with specific types of lighting and sound requirements, which must be accurate to be efficient once complete.
A full stone exterior is very rare these days but is part of the design for the center. We are following a traditional building method while integrating it with modern construction methods. So, when you compare the Gymnatorium to the church – located about one hundred feet away – it will be a seamless transition. All Saints Parish is making a significant investment in this building so it can last as long as the church has.
Nate Libby Masonry is one of the biggest contractors involved in the construction, due to the full stone exterior design. Choosing a qualified mason for this project was extremely important to its overall success, which is unique, as the electrician cost is usually the most significant piece of most plans.
Ouellet’s Connection to the Project
Ouellet Construction has close ties to the parish and the school, which makes the project mean all that much more to the team. Luke Ouellet attended school there, and said, “My dad was involved in the parish community for a long time when we lived here. My two sisters and I all attended All Saints Parish from K-8.”
Luke also added on behalf of the Ouellet team, “As a company, we love to work in Brunswick. We get to see how our work in the community affects the economy and residents. It’s significant work for us in which we take a lot of pride. It’s more than just helping a client – we are making a difference in our community.”
Thoughts on Progress
The weather is a huge factor in this project. As anyone in New England can attest, we are at the mercy of mother nature. One of the most significant challenges has been keeping water warm enough to produce concrete in harsh conditions. When this hasn’t been possible, the crew has been forced to shut the site down temporarily.
Last year, Ouellet purchased a radiant heating system, allowing them to keep things just above freezing by spreading out 1,000 feet of tubes on the site. According to Luke Ouellet, “This was the only way to keep the project going. Without the ground heating system, we would have had to shut the job down for a month and delay the foundation.”
Other than the weather, things have been going along quite well. Luke Ouellet spoke highly of Novel Ironworks, stating, “We were concerned about how all of the pieces of this structure were going to fit together, but the steel has been a very painless process. It’s been great working with Novel Ironworks; they’ve been accurate and great to work with from the beginning. They are a big part of why this project has recovered from the winter weather.” With regards to future progress, Luke added, “Now that the weather has taken a turn for the best, we are looking forward to increasing productivity and moving things along.”
A Supportive and Hopeful Community
The capital campaign created to raise funds for the project is called “Founded on Faith, Building the Future.” Students of the school, parents, and parish members have been among the highest contributors to the project’s fundraising thus far. However, other members of the immediate community and even those from the broader community have donated to the campaign. Though fundraising efforts have been very successful, there is still a need for additional donations. You can give on the All Saints Parish website.
“This has been a dream for the school for 30+ years, and they have been fundraising for it for a long time, so it’s wonderful to be a part of bringing this project to fruition. All Saints is so wonderful to work with,” said Luke Ouellet.
Peggy Keegan, a parishioner of All Saints Parish, is the building’s volunteer Construction Project Manager. In 2015, when the pastor at the time, Father Frank Murray reached out to the seven churches for representation on the leadership steering committee. Keegan said, “I was excited to participate, as I felt that it would be a beneficial project for the parish and the community.” As the project evolved, Keegan took on a more prominent role (Construction Project Manager) as a means of providing cost savings to the project.
Keegan indicated that there had been a long-time need for a space that could provide a place where the St. John’s School students, parishioners, and members of the community could gather to participate in programs centered around music, theater, exercise, and other extracurricular activities. An updated and accessible adoration chapel is also being built as an adjunct to the building, which will have a separate entrance from the main building.
Keegan believes that the multipurpose building that is now being erected will not only fulfill these needs outline above, but that it will evolve and has the potential to satisfy the changing needs of the community for a long time to come. She has been working closely with Luke Ouellet, Mike Ouellet and Dean Ouellet on the project, stating,
“Myself and everyone involved at All Saints Parish are very pleased with the leadership, attention to detail, quality control, and professionalism that Ouellet has shown throughout the project. They really make the client feel that they’re fully vested in the project and the client.”
She added that “Because we are a non-profit, this project takes a unique general contractor to have the patience to adjust to the gaps in our staff and expertise.” While All Saints Parish does have a knowledgeable team, they do not have a full-time staff, which puts pressure on the general contractor that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Keegan said that,
“Ouellet has been very respectful, accommodating, and helpful every step of the way.”
All Saints Parish, St. John’s Catholic School, Ouellet Construction, and members of the Brunswick community are very excited to bring the building to completion. Work is on track for the new facility to be open in early Spring of 2019. We hope the facility is everything they are hoping for and more.