Portage church plans biggest renovation in more than a century | Portage Area Chamber of Commerce

Portage church plans biggest renovation in more than a century

Portage church plans biggest renovation in more than a century
JONATHAN RICHIE/Daily Register, June 2, 2021

St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish has broken ground on an $8 million renovation project that will take 12 months to complete. It will be the biggest changes to the church in 135 years.

Father Gary Krahenbuhl said this plan for the Portage church has been talked about for two decades. He has led the congregation of about 800 families for the last eight years.

“But really in the last four years did things really ramp up,” Krahenbuhl said. “We had an aggressive-minded renovation committee at the helm in that time that made this possible.”

The renovation committee along with a recent capital campaign, which secured $3.1 million, made the renovations possible.

Members of the community and congregation gathered on the east lawn of St. Mary’s, the site of the new entryway the church will have when construction is completed. The new entryway is part of the construction to make St. Mary’s more handicap accessible, Krahenbuhl said.

“This will also be an anchor for future generations,” Krahenbuhl said. “This is not about us, now. It’s about what is to come. These renovations show we’re here to stay in Portage and make this community stronger.”

Lisa Clemmons Director of Parish Administrations for St. Mary’s, said she could not have hoped for better weather to mark the occasion.

The church was dedicated in 1856 and expanded in 1886, there have been no changes to the footprint of the church since. However, there have been several interior changes over the last 162 years.

Along with the new entryway there will be a gathering space added to the church, new bathroom, a downstairs kitchen and multi-use fellowship hall. The roof and steeple will be repaired, a fire sprinkler system will be installed and the HVAC system will be replaced.

“The interior remodeling will preserve the character of the beloved building and many features of the church, including the stained-glass windows and Stations of the Cross,” Krahenbuhl said.

“There was some worry about changing the openness of the sanctuary,” Krahenbuhl said. “But this has only been like this for the last 50 years. It hasn’t always been like this.”

Overall, the congregation is excited about the renovations.

“We are unbelievably excited for this to begin,” Krahenbuhl said.

Krahenbuhl explained during construction, which should wrap up next summer, the congregation will meet at 2652 Murphy Road in Portage.

Kyle Kraemer of Kraemer Brothers and Michael Adler of River Architects discussed the process they have gone through to get to this point.

Kraemer Brothers are on board as the construction company for the project while River Architects were in charge of design work. Adler said they went through many different plans until reaching a final plan and still needed to make adjustments.

“We went through half of the alphabet to get here,” Adler said. “We got to K before we had a plan.”

Representatives from the renovation committee, Adler, Kraemer and Krahenbuhl took part in the official groundbreaking following the remarks. However, before the ceremony ended Krahenbuhl invited the St. Mary’s School kindergarten class to take photos in hard hats and shovels.

“We do this for ourselves, of course, but more important, we are doing this project for these kids,” Krahenbuhl said. “They, too, are our church; they are our future.”

Brad Conrad