Cathie Anderson

Sacramento’s Annunciation church to start building project in early 2015

Parishioners at Sacramento’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church call it The Build, an ambitious $10 million project that will provide much-needed space to house its ministries and strengthen the feeling of community. Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2015.

Even if you’re not a parishioner, Annunciation probably feels like an old friend. The building has sat across from McKinley Park on Sacramento’s Alhambra Boulevard since 1951. Church members considered relocating to sites in North Natomas or the planned McKinley Park Village before deciding to acquire nearby land. They now own virtually the entire block, the only exception being Capital Rehab on Alhambra at G Street.

“We embarked upon developing a new family center ... and a new administration-education building on the south side of the alley,” said restaurateur Sam Manolakas, a longtime parishioner at Annunciation. “We’re going to increase our parking dramatically and get up to 100 stalls of parking. We’ll have a full-size, multipurpose gym for basketball, volleyball, those sorts of things. ”

The family center will have 24,500 square feet, more than double the space in the current church hall. It will be able to accommodate conferences or wedding receptions for up to 450, and also be used for sports activities. The new administration-education center, also doubling in size to 16,800 square feet, will include staff offices, classrooms and a preschool.

“There are so many things we don’t even think about doing because there’s no place to house them or execute them or stage them,” said the Rev. James Retelas, Annunciation’s priest.

He joined the parish nine years ago, returning to his native California after shepherding a parish in Portland, Ore., but he said parishioners have been talking for at least two decades about the need for more space. This is not about bricks and mortar, Retelas said, but about having spaces that promote community.

“It’s going to be transformational, having facilities that really lend themselves to building ministries,” he said. “Right now, we have 100 kids in dance programs, but they can’t have rehearsals at the same time because there are no facilities. When we have volleyball games, we go up to Natomas to rent facilities.”

Farmer Andy Johas, a lifelong parishioner at Annunciation, donated $1 million in memory of his parents, Jim and Dolly Maria Johas, for whom the education wing will be named. Andy Johas once taught agriculture classes to Future Farmers of America, then went into ag banking and now owns vineyards growing wine grape varieties such as viognier, albarino, malbec, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and petite sirah.

“My dad took me years ago down to Oakland, where they have a beautiful church, and the Greek community there is very visible,” he said. “By bringing education and the church, everything altogether in one location, it presents nice visibility to the Greek community (in Sacramento).”

Perhaps the most anticipated new space on the Annunciation campus is not a building at all. It is the plateia, Greek for square or courtyard. In Greek villages, everyone congregates in the plateia, which is at the heart of village life and is surrounded by the church and a government building, Manolakas, Retelas and other parishioners told me.

Two Annunciation parishioners – architects Nick Docous, a principal at Lionakis, and Dan Eriksson, a principal at Comstock Johnson Architects – interviewed programming staff, fraternal societies and parochial groups to get a wish list for a revamped campus. In Docous’ words, the idea was “to create a master plan to allow us to control our destiny.”

The resulting design will marry well with the Clunie Community Center opposite Annunciation, Docous said, and it will integrate with the neighborhood.

“A lot of people associate Greek architecture with white churches and blue roofs, but that’s in the islands of Greece,” he said. “In the northern part of Greece, there’s a lot of stone available from construction and so Byzantine style is built with a lot of stone and masonry. ... There’s going to be arches and clay tile roofs, and the tones are tans and browns, which is evocative of the Byzantine style in Greece.”

Although construction won’t begin until next year, the Annunciation project is already well underway. Several buildings, including an eight-unit apartment house, have been demolished. Construction will not require closing any streets, Manolakas said, or any disruption in service for the church’s nursery or bookstore. Acme Chiropractic, the last tenant still housed in buildings on the block, will be able to remain for several months after construction begins.

The plan is to first build the administration-education center in the space that is currently vacant, Manolakas said. Construction is expected to be completed in 2016.

<i>Editor’s note: This story has changed to correct the spelling of Andy Johas and his parents’ last name.</i>

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916)321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.