Construction Cost per Square Foot of Community Centers in Major US Cities

In a continued effort to offer timely information on construction cost for a variety of building types (see also cost of commercial construction per square foot and  Cost Per Square Foot of Educational Facilities),  I did some research on another project type that we frequently design: Community Centers.  This is a unique project type that is often realized by local organizations or municipalities  that may not have built anything like it before, and therefore could use some guidance.

Before embarking on a project like this, the communty will always want to know: How much will it cost to build our Community Center? We have industry resources available to get an index for what to expect in general based on project location. However, there are a multitude of variables that can drive the cost of construction, depending on the kinds of functions and services offered by the Community Center. Local economy is also a very important factor in construction cost as well as the type of construction you intend to build. The information available to us is based on an average of many projects across the country, and therefore represents a good index for a typical Community Center program. Note that in most cases, the cost of construction per square foot varies significantly with location.

Below is a table illustrating the average construction cost per square foot for Community Centers in different regions.  All graph images are courtesy of RSMeans Construction Cost Data. Data source: Reed Construction Data – RSMeans/Charts: Reed Construction Data – CanaData

Community Center Construction Cost Per Square Foot by Region
Community Center Construction Cost Per Square Foot by Region

Once again, New York City tops the list on the high end at $192.47 per square foot.  Winston-Salem comes in significantly lower at $110.54. This can be quite a range, and is dependant on both the labor markets as well as the local community culture that drives what the Community Center is supposed to provide for its constituents. As you can see from the chart, location alone can represent as much as 70% or more of the cost driver for this construction type.

The median for this type of construction falls between $140 and $150 per square foot. This is also consistent with our own data for similar projects that we have completed in the central and western regions of the country. It is critical to understand the cost drivers for a Community Center and how construction type and location are both variables that will drive your cost per square foot. These are always a part of the initial programming discussions and the Architect will play a huge role in helping to define the ranges of cost to expect for the project. If you are considering building a Community Center, we would be happy to discuss these important issues with you and help you to realize the kind of facility that you envision for your community.


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2 thoughts on “Construction Cost per Square Foot of Community Centers in Major US Cities”

  1. Here’s a comment we recently received asking about cost of construction per square foot for a Church:

    We are in the beginning phase of remodeling our church and we are looking at adding a 3-4000 sq foot of sanctuary space. All new area with a basement underneath. The land is paid for. Can you give me a rough idea of sq footage cost. I know it also depends on the interior finishes but I would say we are a pretty conservative bunch and we won’t overdo it with the finishes. We are also located in Lincoln NE.



    My reply:

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your inquiry. We’ve recently worked on a sanctuary addition to a church in Arvada, Colorado ( ) and have some very recent data on the costs involved. Obviously, the existing building conditions and site improvements required for the additional occupant load (more parking, drive lanes, curb and gutter, etc.) will influence the total cost of the project, but if we were to look at just the building addition itself, you would be looking at a range of $130-$160 per square foot for a typical modest level of finish. Construction costs by index are comparable between Lincoln and Denver, so this would be a good place to start with your budget.

    Once you have a conceptual plan laid out, the construction cost could then be informed by things like clear spans for structure, volume of space created, sanctuary floor concepts (sloping auditorium style or less expensive flat slab), and any fixed seating or other installed fixtures. Some congregations hold their services in buildings that are little more than big box stores ( ) while others take the building that houses their congregation to the highest level, letting the architecture become a physical manifestation of the spirit ( ). Most projects fall somewhere in between, but it is certainly something to consider as we all know how much architecture can shape a community.

    In many respects, programming and functional requirements for a church are very similar to a community center. More information on cost data can be found here ( ). EVstudio can provide design services from initial feasibility studies and concept planning, all the way to engineering, construction documents and permitting. We have done quite a bit of work for congregations in the central and western region ( ) and would be happy to speak with you further about this project.

    Best of luck!


  2. Thanks Sean- this is the article that caught my attention- Thanks for your input, it is most helpful- I am currently bidding the project , when I came across this article I thought I would get your opinion of where I maybe should be just to check myself- the project you linked to me is most helpful- pretty close to the one I am bidding other than location of course

    Thanks much

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