Westminster Presbyterian Church will open the doors of its $73 million expansion on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis on Sunday, an extraordinary investment designed to bring new opportunities for the 100-year-old landmark.
The glimmering 40,000-square-foot addition to the historic church will offer expanded church and community events, children and senior services, and outdoor gardens for downtown pedestrians to enjoy.
“This current building was built in 1897,” said senior pastor Tim Hart-Andersen, gesturing to the Gothic church that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “We wanted to create a space for the 21st century. It is very light and transparent. It’s more engaged with the world around it. It’s what we want to do as a congregation.”
The renovation of the church, known for its Westminster Town Hall Forums, has won praise from civic leaders since the groundbreaking in 2016. Gov. Mark Dayton, a church member, and Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman were among the guest speakers.
Goodman called the addition “a gift to the city.”
“The building itself is an architectural gem, an amazing anchor to the south end of Nicollet Mall,” said Goodman. “But it also brings needed community services downtown.”
The project initially was to be ready two days after the Super Bowl, said Hart-Andersen, but that seemed like a missed opportunity. So the church asked its contractor, Mortenson Construction, if it could finish early.
“We wanted to show the world what a thriving downtown congregation looks like in Minneapolis,” said the pastor. “Westminster now will be at the heart of downtown festivities during Super Bowl Week in the Convention Center and on Nicollet Mall. Our doors will be open.”
Glass and light
A walk through the new space earlier this week found construction crews putting final touches on a project that includes new classrooms, youth spaces and a great hall.
Hart-Andersen started a tour underground in the new 300-vehicle garage, where one level has high ceilings for Metro Mobility and other shuttle services and another offers indoor bike racks and a bike repair station. There are also electric car stations.
“Access is a key priority for us,” said Hart-Andersen.
Walking back upstairs, visitors ascend a sweeping staircase with a skylight above. Dozens of delicate lights are suspended from the ceiling in soft blues and browns — “representing heaven and earth,” Hart-Andersen explained.
Next stop is Westminster Hall, a sunlight-filled space with leaf patterns carved into its rich wood walls and paneled ceilings. The room “suggests a clearing in the forest,” said Hart-Andersen.
In another area, two-story windows filter light into dazzling rainbows of color. “Isn’t it magnificent?” said the pastor, gazing around.
Upstairs will be home to the Harman Center for Child and Family Wellbeing, a clinic of St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development in Minnetonka, and the Cantus vocal ensemble. The building also will host a senior community center.
The project’s architect was James Dayton Design. It includes environmental features such as green roofs and permeable pavers, and ample views of green space.
“Ten thousand people a week walk from the mall to the convention center,” said Hart-Andersen. “Now they have a much better view.”
Affordable housing, too
The expansion, named “Open Doors, Open Futures,” includes $8 million for affordable housing, other supports for low-income families and global partnerships.
Church members donated or pledged $61.5 million of the $81 million project, said Hart-Andersen. Another $20 million was financed.
Sunday’s opening starts with a 10:30 a.m. worship service followed by an inauguration with a commissioned choral work. Building tours will follow.
Other inaugural events planned for the weeks ahead including a Jan. 28 interfaith celebration, an event of the Super Bowl Host Committee.
Hart-Andersen said he hopes the flexible new spaces will meet the diverse needs of people downtown — regardless of religious tradition.
“We want to be part of this city’s growth for years to come,” he said.