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IS HE RECESSION PROOF?

Dallas-Ft. Worth
IS HE RECESSION PROOF?
Paul Lodholz
Our Houston reporter saw that Ziegler Cooper was pegged to design Phase III of a 49.5-acre campus for First Baptist Church of Pasadena, and we had one question: Is church work a safe bet during a downturn? According to Paul Lodholz, who leads the firm's worship studio, it just might be. That was his thinking behind entering the sector in 1981, and he says it's been a source of stability in his practice through four downturns. He had a couple projects kick into gear at the end of '08 (his studio grew 40%), partly because of projects already in the works (once a church raises money to build, it's hard to say it's not going to use the funds as allocated). Church work is definitely a bit disjointed from the business world, Paul says. It helps that people donate to churches in downturns, giving some clients the means to take advantage of cheap construction costs to launch development. As Paul tells us, "it doesn't make economic sense, but it makes human sense."
First Baptist Church of Pasadena
Above, the rendering of First Baptist Church of Pasadena. Church work actually includes numerous property types, like education space, community centers, and gyms. This project is no exception— Phases I and II were not chapels but rather multi-use space. Paul's designing a 115k SF worship center addition that'll include the first permanent and separate worship facility. Construction will begin this summer by GC Fretz Construction. One last question: Will church work maintain as other sectors improve? Paul tells us that in the past, he's seen a two- to three-year depressed church market when the CRE world rebounds. (But something tells us, in this field, return is imminent.)