The basketball teams at St. Gregory the Great Catholic School have never hosted a home game — there are no indoor courts on campus.
Nor have students at the greater Bluffton private school had the chance to mingle during lunch time — they eat in classrooms because there is no cafeteria.
That could soon change.
The church and its school are planning a major expansion project that would add a new $7-million, nearly 30,000-square-foot muti-purpose building adjacent to existing facilities just north of U.S. 278.
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“As Bluffton contentious to boom and people move into the area, our parish has grown exponentially,” with about 10,000 people regularly attending services, St. Gregory the Great Catholic School principal Chris Trott said earlier this week.
“Our Masses are almost always packed,” he said. “It is truly standing room only.”
In addition to providing a gymnasium and cafeteria for the school’s 200 or so students, the new building — called the Parish Life Center — will provide overflow space during services and events, meeting rooms, and a venue for wedding receptions, Trott said.
“Wouldn’t it be great to be able go into a space after church services and just have donuts and coffee and enjoy fellowship and company?” Trott asked rhetorically.
While Trott said the church would like to get started on construction of the Parish Life Center “sooner rather than later,” there are some design elements that must first be approved by Beaufort County.
Plans for the two-story building include a 48-foot roof peak, which is a few feet higher than the other facilities on site and exceeds what is allowed by county code.
“The building … seems a bit out of scale with the rest of the buildings on the campus,” Peter Brower with the county’s Design Review Board said earlier this month when the body reviewed plans for the Parish Life Center.
Fellow review board member James Atkins said while he likes that the planned building shares aesthetic and design elements with the other structures on campus, the church needs to “address some of the scale” of the plans.
“We’ve got site issues to resolve,” and county planning staff will continue to work with the church to work out any kinks, he said.
Trott said, “We obviously want to follow the rules and regulations ... and we are going back and forth (with architects and the county) to make some final adjustments.”
He said the hope is to break ground on the Parish Life Center by the the end of the year.
The building is expected to take about 18 months to construct.
St. Gregory the Great Catholic isn’t the only church in the Bluffton area planning to expand.
Bluffton’s Church of the Cross is about to break ground on an expansion at its Buckwalter Parkway campus.