From the Beersbridge Road and Cypress Avenue it’s all but obscured from view. Situated at the rear of a site that has been home to Bloomfield Presbyterian Church since 1887, the stunning new annexe is the culmination of nearly a decade of preparation and planning.
“We first approached the architect back in 2012,” explained Ken Groves, an integral part of the church’s Building Committee. “There followed a lengthy planning process that took into account issues of conservation, contamination, even traffic, before we finally appointed Leo Matheson Ltd as the main contractor and work could begin.
” To bring architect Judith Hamilton’s design to fruition, Leo Matheson had to find a way to combine refurbishment of existing halls, building a totally new extension, and ensuring the church could continue to function. “The church initially wanted us to start work in the summer when they could move from the existing halls to a local primary school for the duration of the holiday,” said Contracts Manager at Leo Matheson Ltd, Sean Cunningham.
“Fortunately, we were actually given access in April, allowing us to complete the refurbishment and hand back in early September. From January until May we also demolished the existing building at the back, cleared the site and erected the annexe’s new structural steel frame.” Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the project, however, centred around the power supply. “We had to relocate and install a new switchboard, centralising the power and heating supply for both the old and new buildings. It also required a phased changeover and ongoing discussions with NIE and Phoenix Gas.”
A timely blessing
The phrase: ‘We’re handing over ahead of schedule’, is not exactly over-used in the construction industry. That it happened with the Bloomfield Presbyterian Church project proved to be a Godsend. “Work started in January 2019 and Leo Matheson completed the project on Friday, February 21,” said Ken Groves.
“The original handover date was April 14, and the early completion has been a real blessing for us. With recent events who knows when the project would have been finished, but thanks to Leo Matheson and the sub-contractors our congregation had the chance to see and experience the new facilities before the lockdown.” Those facilities include refurbished halls and offices with new energy efficient lighting and heating, state-of-the-art audio visual provision, plus that impressive new annexe.
“As is often the case, there were changes during the project,” added Ken. “The new heating system was not in the original plans for example. There was also the usual debate over the ‘finish’, the colour of the brick work, that sort of thing. It makes it all the more noteworthy that Leo Matheson was able to adapt and still deliver ahead of schedule.
” Having recently completed projects at the Stranmillis Evangelical Church, Ballydown Presbyterian, Sister Elizabeth’s in Dundonald, and Bloomfield, Leo Matheson Ltd is now devoting itself to the refurbishment of another place of worship. “Aidan Brown worked as our foreman for much of the Bloomfield project, before Hugh Burns took over towards the end,” explained Contracts Manager Sean Cunningham. “That freed Aidan to again team-up with Judith (Hamilton) from Architects Knox & Markwell Ltd on a major £2m refurbishment project at 1st Portadown (Edenderry Presbyterian Church).”
Client: Bloomfield Presbyterian Church
Main Contractor: Leo Matheson Ltd
Architect: Knox & Markwell
Electrical: WKK Electrical
Mechanical: Anderson Mechanical Services
Quantity Surveyor: VB Evans & Company (VBE)
M&E Consultant: Simpson & Crawford
Consulting Engineering Consultant: Doran Consulting