May 2, 2017

Chabad in Flagstaff to See New Building

A modernistic height-angled structure, designed to mesh with the famous forest pines of Flagstaff, will soon be seeing construction.

Rendering courtesy The Beck Group architects

The 11,000 square-foot building will house the Molly Blank Jewish Community Center, and will be the first of its kind in northern Arizona.

“We’ve been here eleven years, but up until now we’ve been renting,” says Rabbi Dovie Shapiro, who with his wife, Chaya, founded the Flagstaff Chabad just over a decade ago.

“Obviously, we very much want to have a permanent home,” continues Shapiro.

The project will go up at 930 W. University Avenue, roughly two miles southeast of downtown Flagstaff, and will see, among other things, room for a synagogue, student and youth lounge, and kosher kitchen.

That last amenity, says Jessica Stott, Chabad’s President at the nearby Northern Arizona University, is hugely important.

Rendering courtesy The Beck Group architects

“Right now we have around thirty to forty students coming to dinner, which is difficult because our current Chabad center doesn’t have a kitchen and is not near the campus,” she says.

“Having a center with a kitchen will make everything easier,” Stott continues.

The current center in a mixed retail and residential area at 1254 W. University Boulevard is a one-story, 10,600 square-foot structure built in 2001 that is not large enough to accommodate all of the needs of the growing Chabad.

Those needs, says Shapiro, will be more than provided for at the new center, which will additionally house a library, classrooms, and outdoor terraces.

Future functions for the building include a preschool, lectures, weddings, and tourist retreats.

“This is the beginning of a new and exciting era for the Flagstaff Jewish Community,” Shapiro said in a release issued last month, adding that what he described as a “state-of-the-art” facility will “better serve our ever-expanding community of Jewish families, students, and young professionals.”

There are, in fact, roughly five hundred Jewish households that are currently being served by the Chabad of Flagstaff.

And that’s not to mention the NAU students: “There are at least one hundred students we see within a year, and there are many more than that who could potentially be interested,” says Stott. “So this building will really help us to reach out and get our name out there.”  

With a $4.6 million construction price tag, the project has been greatly accelerated by a $2 million challenge grant from the Molly Blank Fund. Blank, who passed away two years ago, was an Atlanta resident who frequently visited Flagstaff.

The fund has provided support in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to hospitals, museums, and even to the Atlanta Opera.

For construction of the new Flagstaff Chabad, the fund was willing to put up $2 million if the area community could raise $1 million.

That goal was reached last month through the nonprofit crowdfunding platform called Charidy. “We did it all in a 48-hour period,” says Stott. “And it was all or nothing—we got the last $10,000 we needed in the last minute.”

Rendering courtesy The Beck Group architects

Designer of the new center is Jim Shelton of the San Antonio offices of the Beck Group. Shelton’s vision for the facility, he told the website last month, is to create a building that “must be open, to invite people in, but create a safe space as well.”

The design will also emphasize a oneness with the ponderosa pines that make up the Coconino National Forest surrounding Flagstaff.

Noting that fundraising for the facility is “about two thirds of what we need,” Shapiro says an official construction schedule has not yet been announced: “We are hoping to start the work soon, but we don’t know exactly when yet.” 


By Garry Boulard

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