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Addition connects two York buildings

A church in York is undergoing modifications that will make it more accessible and link it to a former school building.

St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception BVM Church, at 309 S. George St., has struggled to accommodate people with mobility issues. Many churches with older buildings face the same problem, said Todd Bowser, vice president of Springettsbury Township-based real estate development and construction firm Campbell Associates.

Handicapped parishioners looking to use the restroom would have to exit St. Mary’s, pass through an alley and then enter a neighboring building used by the church, as there is no handicapped-accessible restroom in the church itself, said Very Rev. Jonathan P. Sawicki, pastor of St. Mary’s.

The space between the two buildings also presented safety concerns due to ice forming in the corners and people sleeping in the shadows between the buildings. The parish holds daily mass each day in the church while the neighboring building provides religious education classes.

To remedy the situation, St. Mary’s enlisted architecture firm CORE Design Group and Campbell Associates to design and construct a 2,100 square-foot atrium-style addition.

The 6,705 square-foot church was established in 1852. The building next door to the church, which was at one time St. Mary’s Catholic School, was built in 1927. After a consolidation of several Catholic schools, the St. Mary’s school stopped operating in 1991.

The 41,290 square-foot structure has since served as a recreational center and school with several large classrooms, an auditorium and a gymnasium with a running track, according to the website of St. Mary’s. The basement also houses four bowling lanes.

Instead of attempting to match the brick facing on the church and school, CORE recommended using glass, said Sawicki.

“The brick on the school is from a different time period than the brick on the church – you aren’t going to match that. Not only does it add a modernization to the elegant church, but it serves a practical purpose creating a vaulted common space in a previously trouble area between the church and the school,” said Sawicki.

Construction is slated for completion for the end of October.

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