Service Corporation International, North America's largest provider of funeral and cemetery services, plans to build a new 8,165-square-foot funeral home and a 5,062-square-foot personal care center at Chapel Hill Cemetery east of Orlando.
The new Baldwin Fairchild Funeral Home will have banquet-style service rooms and the latest video technology to cater to changing preferences for funerals. Instead of sitting silently in pews in a church-like setting, family and friends can gather around tables and share tales of the recently departed.
"If you have a pew setting, you're not having those dialogues because you're sitting in a church-like atmosphere and you can only talk to the people to the right or left of you," said Keith Gruendl, Orlando-area market director for S.E. Cemeteries of Florida LLC, a subsidiary of SCI. "At the banquet setting … it becomes a celebration of that person's life, and you're telling robust stories about that person and how they affected people's lives."
The company is still going through the permitting process for the buildings, but plans to put the construction work out for bids, Gruendl said. Work should start on the buildings at the beginning of 2017, said Jonathan Geren, SCI's construction manager.
"With any luck, we'll try to wrap it up in the middle of 2017," Geren said.
Gruendl said the new funeral office will be designed to offer "themed" funerals reflecting the deceased person's interests, such as a beach-loving lifestyle or a motif reflecting his or her favorite sports team. A caterer that works with the funeral home company on a regular basis can provide food and drink to fit the occasion, such as wine and cheese and hors d'oeuvres.
Several buildings, including a funeral home office built in 1966, will have to be razed to make room for the new single-story funeral home office and personal care center, where the families of the deceased come to arrange a funeral. A mausoleum now on the property will remain, Geren said.
Chapel Hill Cemetery covers 92.72 acres at 2400 Harrell Road, just west of the Central Florida Greenway. That area includes the 2.76 acres where the funeral home and the Orlando Personal Care Center will be located along with parking, sidewalks and a retention pond.
SCI has more than 1,800 locations in 43 states. In the Greater Orlando area, the company has 19 properties, including funeral homes, cemeteries, mortuaries or combinations of those.
"Orlando is an area of growth we continue to review for unique opportunities to enhance our footprint and to serve the Orlando community with dignity and compassion," Gruendl said.