UPPER WEST SIDE — The 121-year-old West End Collegiate Church is putting the finishing touches on an $8 million renovation that will make space for a growing congregation and use of the space by outside groups.
There were around 100 people at a given Sunday service of the West 77th Street and West End Avenue church at the beginning of 2010, when the Rev. Michael Bos took over, but that number has ballooned to about 170 each Sunday, he said.
The renovation focused on sprucing up common areas outside the main worship space that had white walls and dated linoleum floors. It also included reclaiming 4,000 square feet of space from the neighboring Collegiate School and making it functional for meetings and events.
"We wanted to carry the feel of the sanctuary throughout the renovation project," said Bos, explaining the choice for the new Tuscan-colored walls in the church's main parlor and chapel, with its eaves painted black and stenciling to match the adjoining sanctuary.
"It's funny what color does. Really simple touches transform the space," said Bos of the previously worn-out rooms.
Every Tuesday at 4 p.m., hundreds of homeless people come into the church seeking warmth, a brown-bag dinner and to use the bathrooms, he said.
So the house of worship not only added an elevator to increase accessibility to its lower floor, it also installed eight new bathroom stalls and six new sinks to replace two single-occupancy bathrooms that weren't cutting it, Bos noted.
On the lower floor, the church renovated areas that were used by Collegiate for storage and stripped away items like an old boiler. There they created four brand-new classrooms and renovated two existing church rooms.
The church needed more room to host things like AA meetings, a knitting circle, a book club, a meditation circle and interfaith activities, Bos said.
The renovation, which started in June 2012 and was carried out by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects, also gutted the aging kitchen, adding new stoves and making the space more efficient for cooking more meals for the homeless, he said.
The church never had such a substantial renovation, and it was funded through the help of the Collegiate Church network, a league of New York City-based Protestant Reformed churches that started in the 1600s. There are four churches in the league today.
Bos describes West End Collegiate as a "traditional church" with a sense of "openness and community" and "not a staid environment."
"New York City is a great place to live but a difficult place to go it alone," Bos said, attributing the church's growth to word of mouth. People are looking "to come to a place where you can find community."