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Construction Plans: 2013


What’s the problem?

Basically we have a leaking roof, even though the “roof” in this case is at ground level. The entire cathedral complex (the cathedral itself, with its office building, the Cathedral School for Boys, and the diocesan office building) has been built up over a period of almost a century. The Great Stairs, the outdoor labyrinth, the plaza and landscaping to the east and north of the cathedral were completed in 1995 as part of the close completion project. The occupied spaces under these areas include the Preschool/nursery, the Wilsey Conference Center, restrooms, storage areas and the parking garage. The waterproofing systems over these areas have failed in a number of locations and for a variety of reasons. 

What’s the solution?

We need to remove the surfaces and landscaping to expose the waterproofing membrane; then remove and replace the membrane; then install new concrete and masonry, and new landscaping. This work also requires bringing the facility up to current building code requirements for fire, safety and accessibility. This includes the spaces underneath the work area. While those spaces met all code requirements when they were built/remodeled, codes have changed since 2000. This requires adjustments to the cathedral elevator, improved handrails and lighting on the stairs, changes to some doors and improved signage.

What We Have Already Done

In the summer of 2012, we got a start on waterproofing repairs and gained some good experience by working on the planters in front of the cathedral. We also used the time to make some of the necessary adjustments and improvements.

What would happen if we put off further repairs?

In the short term, there is the obvious issue of water damage to occupied spaces.  So far we have been controlling leaks by catching and diverting water above the ceilings of the restrooms, the Preschool and Wilsey rooms. That is increasingly difficult to do. In the longer term, the penetration of water into the steel-reinforced concrete structure results in the same kind of decay that required complete replacement of the roofs over the quire, north transept and Choir House.  The result of long-term leaking is complete replacement of a concrete structure.

Summer and Fall of 2013:  The big work is happening.

  • Completed: During the summer and early fall, the Great Stairs and the outdoor labyrinth were removed.  The old failing waterproofing membrane was removed and replaced.  Granite was installed on the upper portion of the stairs and the new stone labyrinth is complete.  The lower concrete portion of the stairs is 90% complete.
  • Now Underway: The small remaining portion of the concrete stairs is being poured, along with the area surrounding the new labyrinth.  Installation of new handrails begins in mid-November.  The four smaller entrance doors on the east end of the cathedral have been reinstalled.  The stairs and those doors will be open by December 4, and the Ghiberti Doors will be reinstalled by Christmas.  Some small landscaping items will be wrapped up in January.

The overall area affected by this project is shaded in green in the diagram below. 

Obviously the 2013 work will cause major disruption, particularly when the stairs and outdoor labyrinth are replaced. The cathedral will remain open with all our usual activities occurring. Access will be via the California Street doors and both sets of doors leading from the plaza.

What will this cost and how will it be financed?

The total cost of the entire project is estimated at between $2.1 and $2.4 million.  We already have in hand one very generous gift from Sir William Fries II, who in 2008 gave the cathedral one million dollars to be used specifically for the Great Stairs project.  The rest of the money will be taken from funds from a prior bequest that was reserved specifically for building maintenance and restoration.

For more information, email Kathy Kirkpatrick, Canon Sacrist. 


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