New Mormon Stake Center opens in Cambridge

When the Longfellow Park Chapel burned down in a May 2009 fire, the Cambridge Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was already in the throes of a real estate crisis. Since 2002, expanding membership has forced Mormons out of the Brattle Street Longfellow building into makeshift, rented spaces. Last month, the 36,000-square-foot Cambridge Stake Center became the primary meetinghouse for most Cambridge wards and several in neighboring towns.

The Stake Center is at 65 Binney St., off Kendall Square. Its crisp red brick exterior is a variation on the low-rise industrial buildings that surround it. Its steeple is more conservative than its Brattle Street predecessor, which stood unusually high and narrow. The Stake houses two chapels, a cultural hall which doubles as a basketball court, 12 Bible study classrooms, and offices for bishops and administration. Above ground and under, there are a total of 93 parking spaces.

Construction began on the $20 million church in September 2008. Like most Mormon initiatives, the two-story structure was financed through a general fund at church headquarters in Salt Lake City. The general fund is accumulated through the practice of tithing, in which Mormons contribute 10 percent of their annual salaries to the church. LDS is a lay church — no staff are salaried.

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