According to Father Bob Emery, the pastor at St. Lawrence, which is Weehawken's only Roman Catholic church, construction could start in April or May as long as he gets approval from the township and the Archdiocese of Newark.
"If we receive approval from the town, we still have to go through two more reviews with the archdiocese," Emery said. "We have to present two sets of drawings of what we want to do. Then we'll take those drawings and use those to take construction bids and then we'll hire a builder."
Emory is enthused that the appearance before the Board of Adjustment pushes the project along. "We're very excited that the project is moving forward," Emery said. "Things are beginning to look good for us. St. Lawrence has always had the strong need to have its own parish center. Most of the parish's meetings are held in the rectory adjacent to the church, but the meetings are more attended than ever before and the rectory really isn't suited to handle large turnouts."
The center is located in the Shades section of Weehawken near the Lincoln Tunnel.
The parish has used other locations, such as St. Anne's Church in Hoboken or the Weehawken Elks building, for special functions.
When Emery perceived a need for a parish center, he approached the Archdiocese of Newark with the idea, and officials there gave him the approval to organize a capital campaign with the parishioners to raise money to build the center.
Last year the parishioners pledged $730,000 out of the goal of $750,000 to build the center.
"We were very pleased that we raised as much as we did," Emery said. "Although we fell a little short of the goal, we'll find a way to collect the rest. There's nothing that will stop the center from being built, from a financial standpoint. There were some parishioners who were concerned that it wouldn't get built because we didn't reach the goal. That's not going to happen."
Emery hired an architectural firm, KNTM Architects of Clifton and Ocean Township, to draw the plans for the center, to be built in the spacious backyard of the rectory.
"Once we saw the completed architect's drawings, it made it real," Emery said.
Emery said the process to receive permission to build can sometimes be frustrating. "I'm telling everyone that it's an exercise in patience," he said. "I'd like to see it happen tomorrow, but that's not going to happen. The whole process takes more time than expected."
Emery said that he doesn't expect any difficulty. "We met with Mayor Turner and [township manager] Jim Marchetti and showed them the plans," Emery said. "It was just a matter of review and getting feedback. Now, we're ready for the formal process. I certainly don't expect obstacles at this stage of the game."