Unpack, assemble, reassemble, clean... repeat.

People were busy working in pretty much every corner of the Cochrane Alliance Church while Lead Pastor Jason Koleba and Associate Pastor Mike Poettcker conducted a media tour on Aug. 23 to show the massive rethinking and expansion of an important community hub that will soon reopen.

The public will have a chance to view the results of years of planning and 13 months of construction when the church opens its doors for tours during its annual free pancake breakfast on Labour Day Weekend, Sunday, Sept. 3. Outside, breakfast will be served from 9 to 11 a.m. and features the local trio Cloud Chasers, who offer a blend of folk, rock, country and bluegrass music. 

Lead Pastor Koleba says they have served up to 800 at the traditional free offering to the community, but this year they expect more and are ready to feed up to 1,200 people. At 9:30 a.m. they'll be a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony that will include representatives of the church, MLA Cam Westhead and Mayor Ivan Brooker.

He equates this to a "soft" launch. Welcome back services are being held Sept. 10 and programming resumes that week.

"We didn't want to make the 10th to be everything has to be perfect," explains Koleba. "Thanksgiving, I think, is really when we're going to do our dedication."

Underway since late July 2016, the rebuild of the entire west side has been redesigned into two-storeys, adding 6,265 sq. ft.. By doing so they will better accommodate the church's needs and provide more room for expanded programming. They now have 12 classrooms and seven offices in addition to the main admin and lower reception space.

The southwest corridor of the church adjacent to the sanctuary no longer contains offices and instead will house an expanded children's ministry in a  secure location. Upstairs they point to rooms and how they will be utilized how it will enhance their doctrine.

For the community, there are more options for rental. There are several modest rooms in addition to two larger multi-purpose rooms, one above the other, and with an array of windows to take advantage of spectacular view afforded by the Bighill Creek. Each room can accommodate 100 to 120 people and about 75-80 people in a banquet style. The room on the main floor is ideally located next to the kitchen/servery and a lift allows for the quick delivery of meals to the second floor.

Admittedly, the church staff and congregation are anxious to return home. But they are also appreciative of the generous hospitality of the Bow Valley Baptist Church in the interim.

The public, too, is anxious and inquiries are regularly received in anticipation of its reopening. Rentals are expected to resume in October.

The expansion was originally budgeted at $4.23 million but came in at $4.65 million, largely due to some unexpected challenges, like importing fill to get obtain proper compaction, and changes required to meet today's building codes, like having to rebuild the wall that separates the sanctuary from the rest of the building..

Any decisions on discretionary spending became more stressful to hold a tight line, they admit, but they also anticipate undertaking further enhancements down the road as funding becomes available. They anticipate having a better picture after the first year of operation.

Donations received through the church's two-year Open the Door campaign, launched in January 2016, have been key to making the project possible and the campaign continues through to the end of the year.. You can find more details here.