Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Church eyes empty building

by Lisa Seiser

January 19, 2012

Anchor Covenant Church is a growing congregation, but it needs a home.

For the past several years, its members have met at Woods School, the YMCA and the First Congregational Church in Lake Geneva.

But, on Monday night, they presented plans for a much bigger future. Ned Sutherland, a Lake Geneva resident and member of the Anchor congregation, presented a concept for a fully functioning church and community center at 630 Williams St.

The 1.57 acre property, formerly the home of Arrow Products, is located on the west side of Williams Street, behind Michael Todd’s Cleaners, Pat’s Places II Travel, Randy’s Professional Muffler Service and the Clark gas station.

Just more than two years ago, Chris Migut proposed work on the huge building in what he called just the beginning of improvements on the “distressed” property. Migut wanted to convert the building to retail, office and warehouse space. However, details were sketchy. Roof repairs were made and heating and cooling was added, but then nothing happened further with the project.

Now, Anchor wants to take the next steps to make the facility their home for a sanctuary, offices, education center and youth activity areas, fellowship hall and multipurpose uses for the community as a whole.

Sutherland, who represented the church during Monday’s Plan Commission meeting, said the initial use of the building will be the 10,300-square-foot area that is partially finished.

That space will include a meeting area, office, nursery, kitchen and sanctuary.

That area is located on the south side of the property, just behind the Pat’s Places II Travel building.

“We have uses for the other buildings,” Sutherland said.

Although the plan does not include the Pat’s building, it does include the removal of the muffler service station, which will be used for parking. Sutherland said Pat’s is not part of the property they intend to buy and it would cost an additional $200,000 to include it in the project.

However, parking was a key question from Plan Commissioners. There was concern about enough parking if the church and other facilities drew 350 people at one time.

Sutherland said that won’t be a problem for the near future. Church members have many ideas in mind about how to use parts of the remaining building, including space for kids to play.

“We want this to be a seven-days-per-week facility, not just Sundays,” he said.

Sutherland said if the church purchases the property, concentration will be on improving the entire outside area. The building has basically been empty for 8 years and there have been previous ideas on what to do with the huge building.

“We come in with a new suggestion to improve the look of the property and Lake Geneva,” Sutherland said.

Alderman and Plan Commissioner Tom Hartz called Anchor’s plan “ambitious and creative.”

“You have a challenge in front of you, but welcome to the neighborhood,” Hartz said.

Monday was the first time Plan Commissioners saw the concept. Anchor will have to come back to the Commission and request a planned development zoning designation.

As of Tuesday, it was unknown when Sutherland and Anchor will return to the Commission for the zoning change on the property. There are additional fees and plans required to request the change.