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Southeast Valley Churches are Building, Renovating

An estimated 40 volunteers have helped with the renovation project at the Franciscan Renewal Center. A new church building will be built at the center upon completion of the lodge. Photo credit: Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

An estimated 40 volunteers have helped with the renovation project at the Franciscan Renewal Center. A new church building will be built at the center upon completion of the lodge. Photo credit: Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

By Amy Edelen for The Arizona Republic

Construction of new churches in the U.S. has fallen to an all-time low since 1967 with a 4 percent decline in the past year, according to the U.S. Census. But in the Southeast Valley, several places of worship are defying that trend by renovating and building new churches.

In January, the Gilbert Arizona Temple opened, which is the largest church constructed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 17 years, while the St. Mary’s Catholic parish in Chandler is moving forward with plans to build a second church in 2015 to support the growing Catholic population in the area.

Additionally, the Franciscan Renewal Center in Paradise Valley is bucking the trend by raising funds for a $20M expansion project that includes a new church, guest rooms and meeting facilities. The Franciscan Renewal Center or “the Casa,” as it is popularly known, serves as a destination spot for spiritual retreats. The Casa also offers traditional Catholic church services and Mass.

A second phase of development will include the construction of casitas for private retreat and a conference space. Casa began construction on a 32-room guest lodge, the Assisi building, this fall. It’s projected to open by spring 2015.

According to numbers from the U.S. Commerce Department, U.S. churches spent $3.15B on new construction last year. Although that number is down by about half from a decade ago, churches in Phoenix have seen an increase in attendance, which is driving the reason behind new construction.

Across the board in different denominations, Phoenix area churches said that the new construction projects not only provide services for their members, but to local residents as well.

Read more at The Arizona Republic