By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published June 21, 2018
ATLANTA—As rector of the distinctive Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, Msgr. Frank McNamee wears many hats. His favorite lately is a white hard hat that he dons to go outside and check on the construction progress of the parish’s new Hyland Center.
The demolition and construction project in the cathedral’s courtyard began after Easter. The timeframe for the completion of the new building is 14 months—ending just prior to the 2019-2020 school year.
“We are going to double the size of the Hyland Center. We will have more meeting space,” said Msgr. McNamee, who added the new building has “tremendous potential” for the parish and Christ the King School.
“We are exactly on schedule,” said Dawn Stark, director of advancement for the cathedral and school.
New South Construction of Atlanta is the contractor for the new building, designed by architecture firm Collins Cooper Carusi.
Space is precious at the landlocked cathedral at the corner of E. Wesley Road and Peachtree Road in Buckhead.
Like many cathedrals in America, Christ the King possesses historical significance. What makes it unique or different from most other cathedrals, said Msgr. McNamee, is that it’s also still a booming parish.
The cathedral parish has 6,000 registered families and 100 ministries.
“The cathedral never sleeps,” he said. “It’s a happening place. It’s very diverse.”
Kim Sheppard, director of operations for the cathedral, called the Hyland Center the “most utilized” building on campus.
From basketball games to ministry meetings to the assembly line packing of summer lunches for children in need, the building has been the nerve center for both school and church activities.
Central church of archdiocese since 1930s
The cathedral and its center also represent the history of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
In 1936, the Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta was established along with the Cathedral of Christ the King on Peachtree. Construction of the cathedral was finished in 1939.
The Diocese of Atlanta was established in 1956, separating the central and northern counties of Georgia from the Diocese of Savannah. The first bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta was Francis E. Hyland. He began his service to the new diocese as the city of Atlanta and the Catholic population were experiencing rapid growth. He was the namesake for the center, built in 1963.
Msgr. McNamee said when he came to the cathedral nine years ago, the Hyland Center project was already a topic of discussion. It is now coming to fruition as parishioners and the Catholic community at large have generously donated $27.9 million of the $30 million needed to the capital campaign fund, “Continue His Mission.”
The monsignor announced in late May the awarding of a challenge grant of $500,000 from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation. In order to receive the gift, the fundraising goal of $30 million must be met by Dec. 1.
Any project in the Archdiocese of Atlanta that costs more than $50,000 is overseen by Catholic Construction Services (CCSI). A portion of funds raised will cover the project management costs provided by CCSI.
Msgr. McNamee expressed gratitude for the work of campaign co-chairs, Tom Hamby and Marie Corrigan, who are responsible for fundraising. He thanked Tricia Ward, the school’s newly retired principal; and Dawn Stark for their efforts in fundraising and planning for the new center, and Kim Sheppard, for her efforts in the planning and overseeing the project. An initial planning committee, a building committee, a leadership gifts team and many volunteers have also worked on the capital campaign.
Building with attention to the history
The cathedral and the school, founded by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, were built during the Depression era. Msgr. McNamee emphasized that the nuns came to Atlanta with nothing.
For him, it is vital that they follow the example to be good caretakers of funds and materials.
“We’ve always tried to continue the spirit of the Grey Nuns,” he said. “That is very important for us.”
The project has been a process of reconfiguring surrounding spaces on the campus based on a space utilization study. It’s required flexibility with staff moved to the former rectory, repurposed to become a ministry building. The school’s physical education teachers moved lessons to Kenny Hall.
Parishioners receive updates on traffic flow, parking and other construction news through regular bulletin updates.
One project goal, said Sheppard, is to maintain the “rich history” of the center.
Some of the limestone will be reused, and the wood of gym floor is being salvaged.
“We’re creating some floor art,” she said. “I think it’s important to be good stewards.”
The staff is working with Lifecycle Building Center to find uses for doorframes, toilets, old furniture, and other materials to reuse instead of discard. One local organization will use the center’s table and chairs for the setup of a school in Africa.
The efforts are important environmentally but also for sentimental reasons. The demolition of the Hyland Center, where many founding members held wedding receptions or have enjoyed gatherings, was bittersweet.
“We have our Christmas and Easter Masses there,” explained Msgr. McNamee. He said for many families, it is their routine to worship there. “It’s their tradition to go to the Hyland Center.”
The new center will offer a full-size gymnasium, eight state-of-the-art classrooms, two science labs, as well as an art room, music room and multipurpose ministry meeting space. Additional green space and the doubling of a playground area are also planned.
Before school begins, the contractors will make viewing circles in the plywood surrounding the project site, so that CTK students can monitor the progress.
With demolition complete, shoring for the new structure was to begin the week of June 17.
“It’s been fun to watch it come down,” said Stark. She said they are looking at ways to “leverage” the construction process by providing some lessons on construction and engineering to the school children.
The neighbors of the cathedral, including Dr. Dock Hollingsworth, senior pastor of Second-Ponce De Leon Baptist Church, have been supportive of the cathedral community and associated growing pains.
“The relationship has been very positive,” said Msgr. McNamee.
As the cathedral for the archdiocese, Christ the King hosts many noteworthy archdiocesan Masses and events. This significant increase in space will allow for better accommodation of both parish and archdiocesan events.
This year, the cathedral held vacation bible school at Holy Spirit Church on Northside Drive in Atlanta, about 4.5 miles away, to avoid the construction zone. With the school year approaching, the planning team has other puzzle pieces to figure out in the coming weeks.
“Our motto for the next 14 months will be ‘flexible,’” said Sheppard.
“The new Hyland Center is a tremendous witness to faith,” said Msgr. McNamee. “It’s a new chapter in the life of the cathedral.”