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Headaches are emerging in the massive project transforming the old Crystal Cathedral:
Faced with major cost overruns in renovating the Christ Cathedral sanctuary, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has moved to rein in the project’s construction expenses and streamline operations at the sprawling campus, church officials said this week. The diocese bought the 34-acre campus for $57 million in 2012 after its former owner, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral Ministries, filed for bankruptcy. Since acquiring the property, however, the diocese has suffered growing pains – including spending millions of dollars to repair and renovate existing buildings on the property, managing increased operational costs and handling the task of renovating an iconic Orange County building that attracts visitors from all over the world. …Diocese officials say they have altered course in recent months after initially underestimating the cost of renovating the cathedral by more than $40 million and during the last few months, under Vann’s leadership, have undergone cost-cutting measures to get into better financial shape. The bishop also created a construction task force in July to get renovation costs under control and reduce project costs from $108 million to $72 million, diocese officials said. …The biggest challenge to the renovation project has been to “maintain the spirit” of the iconic structure while keeping costs under control, said Richard Heim, a special volunteer adviser who is overseeing the project. The design change that has helped bring down the price is the decision to “keep the bones of the building intact,” he said. “This is a glass cathedral built in a seismic zone,” Heim said. “It’s certainly strong and well-constructed.” Also, instead of buying stone for the interior from a quarry in Italy, officials will opt for stone that costs 30 percent to 40 percent less but could still produce similar aesthetic effect and durability. Instead of going for a solid, marble altar, they’ve settled for long-lasting marble veneer. There are several big-ticket items that remain, Heim said. As part of the renovation, the 78,000-square-foot cathedral will be completely air-conditioned. Workers are reinstalling the 10,000 glass panes atop the sanctuary, which will cost a little more than $4 million.
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