OCEAN CITY – The vestry of St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church awarded a contract to Gillis Gilkerson Inc. last month to begin construction on a two-story addition, which will replace the rectory that was destroyed in a fire nearly four years ago.
Tom Shuster, a member of the church’s reconstruction team, said the project will begin this month, sometime after the team’s April 12 preconstruction meeting.
“There is a tentative schedule for the construction,” he said.
Crews will first focus their efforts on adding a handicap-accessible restroom to Dewees Hall, the parish’s community hall. Work to build an addition off the church’s north-facing wall will begin in May.
The announcement comes nearly three-and-a-half years after a man set himself ablaze and entered the church’s rectory, which ultimately destroyed the structure and claimed the lives of two people, including the Rev. David Dingwall.
The church subsequently demolished what was left of the rectory, enclosed the north-facing wall, remediated sections of the church that had smoke damage and installed a fire suppression sprinkler system, according to Shuster.
In May, crews will be removing the northern wall and begin erecting a 2,300-square-foot addition, which Shuster said would contain additional offices, storage space, a lobby and elevator. Although the space will not be used as a rectory, Shuster said some of the space will replicate the former building.
To accommodate construction, the adjacent sanctuary will be closed beginning May 14. Officials expect construction to conclude Dec. 15 of this year.
“It’s taken this long because there has been a sequence of events,” Shuster said.
After the 2013 fire, the church’s reconstruction committee formed and worked with the Becker Morgan Group to create site plans that would replace the portion of the church that was lost. After the months-long process concluded, Shuster said plans were submitted to the Town of Ocean City for approval.
“The vestry and the parish leadership have shown great vision and determination by moving ahead with this construction,” Father Matthew D’Amario, rector of St. Paul’s by-the-Sea, said in a press release.
Due to the impending construction, St. Paul’s officials are working on plans to shift the location of services within the building. Programs at the church’s Red Doors Community Center will be suspended from late April to July as crews construct the handicap-accessible bathroom.
Shuster said extensive planning was needed to get this far in the project, but explained that the finished product will soon serve the needs of the community.
“As a member of the reconstruction team, I’m pleased we’ve gotten to this point,” he said, “to replace portions that were lost and regain space to do ministry in our community and congregation.”
Donations are being accepted to finance the project and can be made to the church’s Building Recovery Fund at 302 N. Baltimore Ave., Ocean City, Md, 21842.