At Ridgewood Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota, a dedicated effort was made to modernize their space, open it up for connections, and give people a sense of belonging. Gathering spaces were refreshed. Traffic flow was improved. Entrances were well-defined and children’s ministry areas were more safe and secure.
One of the most significant changes made by the church was the steps they took to make their space accessible to people with disabilities. The elevator was outdated, unreliable and too small. Restrooms were only partially accessible and built by outdated code requirements. Navigation and way finding was not intuitive and even confusing.
But the church decided that hospitality doesn’t discriminate based on ability.
Station 19 Architects partnered with Ridgewood Church to enhance and improve the hospitality and connections experience for everyone in their community — regardless of their abilities or mobility issues. These conversations were monumental for people like Tom Foty, whose daughter Sunni found it difficult to maneuver in certain areas of the church with her motorized wheelchair.
Tom was an integral advocate for his daughter — and for all people with special needs — during the planning and design phases of this project. He made a strong case for an elevator that was centralized, up-to-date, and large enough for motorized wheelchairs. He also presented a case for enhanced restrooms also generous enough for a motorized wheelchair. He presented a case that for a church to be welcoming, it needed to address these issues.
The result was a refreshing, hospitable, secure space for an entire community — regardless of abilities. The stairs and elevator are now arrive at the same point, which means that everyone arrives together. Restrooms are easy to find and easy to navigate, whether or not someone is in a wheelchair. Family restrooms mean that caretakers have the facilities and systems they need in a setting that is set up perfectly for them.
The accessibility-focused component of the Ridgewood Church project ended up as an integral piece of their overall refresh and remodel vision. The updated entrance to the church communicated hospitality, but when Ridgewood Church talks about being welcoming, they’re not using clichés or empty words. They’re not presenting a façade. Ridgewood Church committed time, energy, and resources to making their space hospitable to everyone in their community.
We listen first so that we can truly understand a community before we try to address that community’s needs. From listening to Tom Foty’s heart for the church and how he’d like to see his daughter be a greater part of the community to listening to the broader church voice about how these efforts can be gracefully and artistically woven into the broader space, we are thankful for every part of this project. And now, with the project complete and the doors open (and elevator working!), what an impact this project has been! Because we listened first, we get to see Sunni and her family actively engage with their church community.