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Report recommends about $10 million to upgrade Stony Point Center

PMA Board’s coordinating committee hears consultant’s report

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Presbyterian Mission Agency Coordinating Committee heard a consultant’s report Thursday about proposed capital improvements at Stony Point Center. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — A proposed Vision Plan for Stony Point Center, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-affiliated center for hospitality and community-building along the Hudson River north of New York City, recommends investing in significant renovations, including the installation of private bathrooms in three lodges and construction of a facility called Cairncroft to replace the center’s current Evergreen building and provide modern meeting space, dining and administrative functions.

The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Coordinating Committee discussed the plan during a Thursday conference call. The entire PMA Board is scheduled to meet at Stony Point Center Sept. 26-28 to tour the grounds, hear a presentation on the recommendations and then vote on how to proceed. Before that, the Board will meet via conference call Sept. 13.

Funding for Stony Point will not come from existing ministry areas. The vision is presented in phases to allow for the project to be halted or altered at any point the PMA Board determines.

The 75-page proposal, developed by Run River Enterprises of Tully, N.Y., is a long-range plan that will take at least a decade to fully realize. While the estimated capital improvements will be about $10 million — including about $7 million to design and construct the Cairncroft facility — increased visitation and potentially higher fees will help recoup some of that cost in as little as five years, the plan states.

The Evergreen Building would remain in use until Cairncroft is completed, which is the third and last phase in the plan.

The PMA Board is not being asked to approve the entire amount of capital spending, said the Rev. Dr. Ray Jones III, the director of Theology, Formation and Evangelism and a member of the roundtable that’s been working on Stony Point Center’s future. “We are asking for a methodical and incremental approach,” he said, with work completed in phases “with checkpoints along the way for Board approval.”

During its Stony Point visit, the PMA Board will be asked to approve three items:

  • The Vision Plan itself, which includes plans for marketing, organizational capacity, site and facilities and business.
  • The realignment of Stony Point Center to the office of the president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the authorization of $300,000 over the next three years to pay for a proposed staffing plan recommended in the Vision Plan. That spending will come from unassigned funds in recent bequests.
  • Another approximately $75,000 for a feasibility study for the capital and endowment campaigns that will pay for the recommended improvements.

Even before the first phase begins in 2021, some repairs — including a few to Evergreen — have been completed or are in process. Funding for those repairs, which approach $1.3 million, has already been identified.

Phase One, from 2021-23, includes the installation of solar power and a commercial laundry; private bathrooms for Beech, Magnolia and Walnut; and landscaping and other outdoor improvements. That phase will cost nearly $2.6 million.

Phase Two projects, scheduled for 2024-26, are expected to cost nearly $800,000. They include building a natural playscape; evaluating water, sewer and electrical systems; and designing Cairncroft, a combination of two names — cairn, a mound of rough stones built as a memorial or landmark along a trail, and croft, the Scottish word for a small rented farm that features pastures held in common with other farms.

Construction of Cairncroft, which would be up to 22,000 square feet and would feature “smart” meeting rooms with wi-fi, audio-visual and smartboard capabilities and would accommodate meetings of up to 330 people with a 250-person dining hall, would occur during Phase Three from 2027-29 and cost an estimated $6.5 million.

The plan has some additional recommendations and rationales, including:

  • A theology that makes clear that Stony Point Center is “a ministry of a place apart, where persons are renewed in their relationship with God” and acknowledges “the theological foundations of the work of Stony Point Center and the ways in which the theological foundations connect SPC to the larger work of the church.”
  • As “an ordinary place,” Stony Point Center “helps us to focus on the encounters with God in the human community.” It’s a ministry of hospitality, community, transformation through learning and is on “the edge of the inside,” a place where people stand along the margins and are able to help the church “become its truest self.”
  • Community of Living Traditions, in which people stay and work at SPC for an extended time, has “played a critical role in the recent development” of the center. “Its continued health is essential,” the plan states, and is probably most secure as a separate nonprofit structure.
  • A content marketing plan focused on the priorities of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, including the Matthew 25 invitation, should be developed to reflect “the unique perspective that Stony Point brings to those priorities.”
  • Stony Point Center staff should be realigned “for continued growth and expansion.”
  • The center should have a “unified look and feel to the site,” through use of a color palette and themed materials. Outdoor spaces can include a village green, natural playscape, walking trails and meditation spaces.
  • A life-cycle maintenance plan should be adopted to meet future maintenance needs.

The Rev. Pam Harris of Run River Enterprises, consultant for the Vision Plan, said that mid council leaders she’s spoken with have expressed “positive experiences” with Stony Point Center’s hospitality and food and with staff interactions. “The concerns were almost always around the physical facility,” she said. “They were honest about the limitations of the facility and what it felt like to be there and using bathrooms that were down the hall (from their bed).”

“We see this as a laboratory of sorts, a place where church leaders can experiment with new ways of doing ministry, new ways of justice,” Jones told the committee.

PMA Board Chair the Rev. Joe Morrow called the recommendations in the Vision Plan “intriguing new directions for Stony Point,” giving the center further opportunity to “live into its heritage.” For centuries, humans have met to trade and talk on Stony Point Center’s grounds, the plan notes.

“We want to experiment and create experiences where people learn to trust and can be impressed by having these experiences,” said the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, the PMA’s president and executive director, recalling for the committee how Stony Point Center was a place she came to for training while in seminary during the 1980s. “It’s important that people are open to this new vision being cast.”

Using an experienced consultant like Run River Enterprises “has really helped us get unstuck,” said the Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, a member of the PMA Board Coordinating Committee. “This will benefit the larger church into the next generation, and I think that’s really wonderful.”

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