Bitter Lake church to begin construction this fall on campus expansion with incubator space

Illume Church, in the Bitter Lake neighborhood at 11050 Greenwood Ave. N., has big plans for its site and ministry. In November, construction is slated to begin on a 10,000-square-foot campus expansion project three years in the making. The new campus will create what Pastor Kent Reeder calls a “nonprofit incubator space” for the community, church office space, events space, and a coffee shop and cafe in a three-story addition.

The existing 5,824-square-foot church, which currently houses the sanctuary and a preschool in the basement, will be renovated and reconfigured and a new roof installed. A new lobby and an outside courtyard will connect the two buildings.

SHED Architecture & Design is the project architect. This is the firm’s first religious architecture commission.

“Kent reached out to us in 2019 after he had chanced on some of our work,” Greg Shiffler, senior architect at SHED, shared. “He intentionally wanted an architect that had never worked in religious architecture because his vision was to create a campus that was also for and felt welcoming to everyone in the community.”

“I want everyone who walks by our campus to say wow that space is useful to me, not just those who belong to the church,” Reeder confirmed. “If a church isn’t having an impact on its community, I don’t think it’s really doing Christ’s work,” he continued.

Local nonprofits will be invited to rent low-cost space in the addition’s second level. Those involved with nonprofit work will also be able to find employment in the ground-level cafe and coffee shop and will have access to event space on the third level. Reeder also hopes that the coffee shop can be a source of employment for those in the community who might need a helping hand, including individuals recovering from mental health crises or the formerly incarcerated.

“My dream is to move the community and nonprofit life of the neighborhood forward a decade,” Reeder said. “We will connect people who have to those who need.”

SHED’s addition is designed to flow and connect seamlessly with the existing building, which dates from 1965. The addition takes design cues from the sanctuary’s steeped pitched roof and will be clad in matching vertical cedar paneling. The addition and the older building will be painted uniformly and lit and decorated in similar ways to further create a sense of cohesion and a message that the religious and public spaces are welcoming to all.

Pregnability was another theme that drove the design. The campus is intentionally pregnable. In total, there will be eight to 10 entrances. At the center of the new campus is an entryway with historic rockwork on both sides. These walls draw the eye from the street to the campus and welcome the community to enter into the courtyard and lobby (the existing entrance is on the other side of the building).

In the courtyard, there will be a sculpture by Jason Jaspersen that embodies the theme of sacrifice and helping others as a visualization of the church and its mission. The sculpture has two figures, one who is essentially falling and drowning, and another who is diving in and saving them.

“Looking at the campus addition it feels like it was always meant to be here, it just fits,” Reeder said.

As part of the project, the sanctuary has also been reconfigured. Pews have been removed to create a more informal setting for worship and gathering, and the entry way to the preschool has been reshaped.

Funding for the project, which Reeder estimates will end up costing $5 million-$6.5 million, comes from the sale of another church building, a loan through the church body and a national capital campaign. Reeder is hopeful that ground will be broken in November and estimates the build to take around a year. Ryan is the general contractor.

“If I could use two words to describe this project they would be neighborhood gift,” Reeder concluded. “I think the best gifts are those that move you forward and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here for the neighborhood and community.”


SHED Architecture & Design


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