Congregation Beth Shalom is exploring an expansion project at its existing property in Overland Park.
Though the 655-family congregation has started the process of planning a new “sacred space” that would include a sanctuary, information on the project is still fairly limited.
Gina Kaiser, chair of the congregation’s location task force committee, said a search is underway for an architect to design the project and no decisions have been made about the size of the structure or the cost. Any expansion would occur on the congregation’s property at 14200 Lamar Ave.
Kaiser said the plan is to build a structure large enough to accommodate regular religious services, as well as special occasions, such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs.
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“We want an attractive, inspiring, cost-effective space, and we’re excited about it,” she said. “It’s very exciting to take this step, to really move forward. I think this step shows significant faith in the future stability and life of the congregation.”
The committee is still considering whether the space should be able to house High Holy Day holiday services—easily the most attended days of the year. Currently, the congregation rents space at Jewish Community Center for those days.
“The question is can or should we build a space for three to four days of the year and can we built it in a way that is financially responsible to do that?” Kaiser said.
After selecting an architect, the committee will be looking for feedback from members of the congregation to see what they envision for the space
The congregation hasn’t started a capital campaign to raise money for the project. Kaiser said that would probably happen once they have a better idea of the exact cost.
Several factors went into the decision to start the planning process now.
“I think the financial situation of the synagogue has stabilized and improved dramatically. …We have a stable, young, dynamic clergy staff,” Kaiser said.
The Lamar location has been open since 2006, but it wasn’t designed to host all the congregation’s functions. Its intended purpose was to house the educational programs, but with the real estate market crunch, it became much more than that.
Five years later, in 2011, the congregation closed its old location at 95th Street and Wornall Road. That building was later knocked down to make way for the headquarters expansion by Burns & McDonnell, the Kansas City-based engineering, architectural and consulting firm.
“The original vision was to just build a school and use the 95th Street location for a number of years as a sacred space … then build a sacred space at 143rd Street. That vision didn’t exactly pan out,” Kaiser said. “There’s a lovely multi-purpose space we converted into a sacred space (at 143rd Street) … Although it’s been more than more than adequate, it’s less than inspirational from an aesthetic standpoint, because that’s not what it was built for.”
Kaiser said she hopes the committee will choose an architect by the end of 2017, and although there is no specific building plan yet, she expects the new structure will go up in the next two to five years.
A letter to the congregation from its president, Richard Simon, mentioned intentions to explore “creative ways to serve the needs of our congregants who live north of I-435.”
Kaiser said this does not mean building a structure in that part of town but might mean planning events more convenient to people who live in that area.
“We don’t want to assume that everything that happens at Beth Shalom has to happen at 143rd and Lamar,” she said.