Pillar of Fire Gets Green Light for $10 Million Building Project

Zarepath3Preparatory work on the Pillar of Fire’s nearly 50,000-square-foot multipurpose building is underway, with church officials looking to December 2014 for its completion.

The township’s building department gave the project its final approvals on Sept. 25, and workers almost immediately began erecting a silt fence along the property, which borders Weston Canal Road.

“We called for an inspection (for Sept. 27) on that, and once we get inspected, we can start moving soil,” said Al Shjarback, the church’s pastor of operations. “At the very latest, Monday we’ll be pushing soil.”

Shjarback said the project will be completed in two phases, with the first costing about $7 million.

That first phase includes all of the exterior work – including infrastructure such as water and sewer lines – landscaping, constructing the building and finishing the multipurpose gymnasium and its accessory rooms, Shjarback said.

He said the second phase, which will include offices and classrooms, probably won’t get underway for at least a year.

The first phase is fully funded, he said. “We’re preparing to start fundraising (for the second phase.) When we feel we have the funds to sufficiently complete that, we’ll start that.”

About seven tractor-trailer loads of structural steel were delivered Sept. 25, he said.

“That’s almost the complete order,” he said. “We’re really encouraged.”

The building will be used for worship services and also for the church’s urban outreach ministry called Urban Impact. Shjarback said the project works with inner city youth throughout the state, through local churches.

The church’s senior pastor, Rob Cruver, saw a need for a home “to be able to run the programs they run through the week and the weekends,” he said.

“it’s really going to have a multi-dimensional aspect,” he said. “There’s a very big focus on helping youth, digging into communities such as Camden and New Brunswick.”

The project spans 149 acres on three lots of undeveloped land, next door to the church’s Children’s Ministry building. The project won zoning board approval in April 2008.

Since then, the church has had to navigate local, county and state regulations, and win approvals on all three levels.

“It’s been a fairly long journey,” Shjarback said.

“The other thing is, over time we had to slow it down or sped it up because we were working through getting all the funding,” he said. “You have an expectation that it will come in, and it doesn’t always work out that way. At times we would pull back until we felt that we had the project sufficiently funded. Now we do.”

“It’s just a very involved, complicated process when you’re doing a project this big,” he said.

Shjarback said the need for the new building also arose from the church’s growing congregation.

At the time the idea for a new building was first broached, “the church was smaller,” he said. “We were meeting in a chapel that was able to accommodate us, but we were close to filling that. Since that time, our congregation has grown. We were a couple hundred at that point, now we’re a couple thousand.”

The church uses a gym on its main campus in Zarepath for worship services now, Shjarback said.

Building a new facility will also help alleviate the problem of constant flooding of the campus whenever a large storm hits the area, he said. Unlike buildings on the main campus, this new facility will not be in a flood plain.

“It’s a really good feeling,” Shjarback said.



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