First Lutheran to buy old Lorain High parking lot for new church
By Richard Payerchin, The Morning JournalThursday, January 21, 2016
First Evangelical Lutheran Church will build its new church on the former parking lot of the old Lorain High School.
The church at 603 Washington Ave. burned Aug. 28, 2014. Authorities ruled the fire an arson.
Staff announced the plan for the new location late Jan. 20. The church’s New Building Committee has entered into an agreement with the Lorain City School board of education to buy the lot.
“It’s the old (Lorain) high school parking lot on Sixth Street, which is all of 500 yards, if that, from where our old building is,” said the Rev. Jimmy Madsen, pastor.
It is on the same street and in the same neighborhood as the church that caught fire, Madsen said.
“We were very pleased to get it,” he said about the lot. “It’s been sitting empty for a long time. It’s going to be put to good use.”
The new First Lutheran Church will be an investment estimated up to $7 million, which essentially is the replacement cost for the church that was destroyed, Madsen said. The church had replacement insurance to cover the cost, he added.
Supporters of downtown Lorain hoped the congregation would remain in the city, said Jim Long, president of the Lorain Growth Corp.
“We’re enthusiastic and that’s been our wish all along, that they stay near where they were,” Long said.
Long and Leon Mason, Lorain’s director of building, housing and planning, spoke to church members last year and asked them to consider staying.
“I don’t want to see anybody leave” downtown, Long said. “We support them 100 percent.”
The New Building Committee will have its first design session with the architect and other professionals in early February.
The design session, called a “charrette,” is an intense planning period scheduled Feb. 2-4 with the entire design team. By the end of the charrette, the basic design of the new church should be set, according to plans by the New Building Committee.
The design team already has program statements from the New Building Committee, so the consultants have preliminary information about what kind of space is needed in the new building, Madsen said.
If all goes well with the property transfer and plans, groundbreaking could take place as early as spring, Madsen said. However, an exact schedule for planning and construction is not established yet.
The new building will be about 20,000 square feet in size, which is about the same size as the former church, Madsen said. He predicted the new church will look larger because it will be one floor, spread out over more area, whereas the old church and annex had multiple floors.
Reconfiguring the space of the church would have been possible, but difficult, on First Lutheran’s existing lot and such a design likely would not have adequate parking on church property, Madsen said.
The land for the new church is on the block bordered by Washington Avenue on the east and Hamilton Avenue to the west, and from Fifth Street on the north to Sixth Street on the south, according to the church announcement.
“It is in the shape of a squat ‘T,’” with access to all of the streets except Washington Avenue, according to plans.
For now, the church also will keep its former lot at 603 Washington Ave.
The purchase of the new land was approved by the congregation in August upon recommendation of the church council and under the advice of the church’s consulting architect and other advisers, according to the church announcement.
The land formerly was the parking lot of Lorain High School when the campus sat on the land that now has Admiral King Elementary.
“The church has established a limited budget for acquiring adjoining properties and has hired a local research entity and real estate consultant to examine them,” the church announcement said. “Within a few weeks, we will reach out to a few of these property owners to gauge their interest. The potential purchase of these properties will be dependent upon availability of funds.”