Muswell Hill Synagogue
Tazria-Metzora 16/17 April 7.44pm 8.51pm

Shul Building Project Update Dec 2020

Shul building project update Dec 2020

We last published an update on the shul building project in the Rosh Hashanah edition of Shalom Magazine. In it we set out the good progress we had made over the summer. Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic there had been positive developments for our project including the agreement of appointment terms with our various professional consultants and securing commitment from the United Synagogue for their share of the budget. 

We concluded by telling you that the team would spend the remaining months of the year working to prepare the detailed tender documents that we would need in order to take the scheme to professional building contractors and secure a firm price and timetable.

We are pleased to be able to update the community that the team has been working flat out over the past months to do exactly that:

  • Our lead designers, Murray Levinson and Jodie Gandz from Squire and Partners, have continued to refine the designs presented to the community and are now concluding their technical drawings. 
  • Those who have been into shul since lockdown was lifted may have seen some of the walls and floors have been opened up. That’s because our structural engineer, Martin Cooper, has been on site investigating the beams and joists in the areas in which we propose to do construction.
  • As you will recall, modernising the heating, lighting and ventilation in the shul building is an integral part of the project. Our mechanical and electrical engineering consultants, led by Stuart Armsden at Ridge & Co, have surveyed our existing infrastructure and drawn up detailed plans for each of these elements. 
  • Rabbi David has been active in advising on how we make the prayer spaces including the new Beit Hamidrash uplifting places in which to daven. He has also contributed exciting suggestions for how we can weave our community ethos into the fabric of the building.
  • We have appointed kitchen designers, Airedale, who recently completed new kitchen installations at two United Synagogue shuls. Airedale have drawn up plans for a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen capable of catering for a simcha or kiddush. We have shared these plans with the various members of the community who are regular users of the kitchen, as well as with external caterers. 
  • Discussions with CST have been ongoing to ensure that our building becomes compliant with the very latest security measures they are recommending. 
  • Sound engineers have visited the building and measured ambient noise levels to ensure that the air conditioning units we plan to install on the roof will not cause undue noise for our neighbours and will meet Haringey planning conditions.
  • Drainage engineers have completed a full survey of the drains and underground pipework. One area had to be cleared but otherwise we found no major issues.
  • Audiovisual consultants and networking specialists have visited the building to map out cabling and specifications for the new video and sound systems that we plan to install in the function hall, the lobby and new Beit Hamidrash. 
  • We have appointed Stroma Group as our building control advisers, and they have visited the building and given advice to ensure we comply with all relevant fire and safety regulations and guidelines. 
  • And throughout the period we have remained in close contact with the Property Director of the United Synagogue to absorb best practice from other shul projects and to lean on their considerable experience. 

All of this work will now come together in the next few weeks with delivery of the tender packages with which we will approach building contractors. We are compiling a list of suitable contractors with experience working on similar sized building projects and/or other United Synagogue buildings and expect to finalise this list and send out the tender packages in mid to late January.

We wrote in our Rosh Hashanah update that at this point there will be a natural pause. If the cost proposals we receive from building contractors are substantially over budget then we will have to consider our options. In the worst case we would have an option at that point to put the project on hold. This year has taught us that no-one can predict the future. But from where we stand today, we feel confident we will be in a position to proceed, and we know from our conversations with them that the United Synagogue shares this confidence.

Assuming that we do proceed as planned then June 2021 is the best option for us to commence works. A plan is now being developed that would see works progress in two phases in order to minimise disruption to the building. In the first phase, contractors will focus on the rear of the building, constructing the new Beit Hamidrash and kitchen. During this phase the community will have continued access to the main shul and the function hall as usual. This phase would largely coincide with the summer holidays when the Yeladenu pre-school is closed, allowing us to minimise disruption to the teachers and children. The phase would complete in time for the Yomim Noraim in September 2021.

On the conclusion of this first phase, the new rear section will be opened for use and work will shift to the main shul, the lobby and the function hall, although not until after the yom-tovs. This second phase would take a further four months to complete and it is anticipated that the works would complete at around the end of January 2022. There are further details to be worked through but a clear plan is beginning to emerge.

We have now received commitments towards our initial target of £600,000 from members of the community. In all, over 100 families have contributed, making this a real communal effort. However, it would be great to bolster both of these numbers: more pledges, in order to invest in new fixtures and fittings to complement the structural works, and more families so that this becomes a project everyone participates in. We will be in touch in the New Year with more details of how you can help. 

We are conscious it feels peculiar talking about a building we have not collectively been able to gather in for many months. However, with recent news of the vaccine, it seems we are closer to the end of this pandemic than to the beginning and we look forward to being able physically to come together as a community once more. The opportunity to do so in a fresher, updated building is very exciting. 

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