Church plans to repurpose office building in Vernon Hills
Orchard Evangelical Free Church, which has six locations in Chicago and the suburbs, wants to buy and repurpose an office building in Vernon Hills for its newest campus.
Citing substantial interest from members, who have been attending Sunday morning services at the Double Tree Hilton Libertyville-Mundelein hotel, church officials plan to buy the building at 870 West End Court as a permanent home.
To do that, the property needs to be rezoned from office to public building use to allow for a house of worship. The concept was presented to the village board this past week and received informal support.
"We're very close to having a contract to purchase the building," said Russell G. Whitaker III, an attorney representing the church. He said the church has been looking for a permanent location in the area for about a year.
"For one reason or another, we haven't been able to make the other properties work," he told village trustees. "We think we've got an opportunity here."
About 125 people attend services at the Double Tree, and the church sees "a substantial growth opportunity" for the new campus, Whitaker said.
The church plans to buy and repurpose the two-story, 20,000-square-foot medical office building solely for its use. The building is about 30% vacant. Three of the tenants operate on month-to-month leases and the fourth lease is set to expire in March, according to Orchard.
John Sexton said he bought the building six years ago with the intent of filling it with tenants. But the way health care is delivered had physicians moving to hospital-affiliated settings.
"As hard as I tried, medical wasn't going to work," Sexton explained.
Orchard plans a worship center to seat 230 people; a kids ministry; balcony overlooking the worship center; meetings rooms and administrative offices; and, an area for youth ministry meetings. Orchard would occupy the entire building and make only minor changes outside.
According to Whitaker, Orchard was established in 1953 in Arlington Heights and is the flagship facility with 1,600 members. The church also operates in Itasca, Barrington, Northfield, Marengo and Chicago. It is affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America.
The size of each location ranges from 13,000 square feet on two acres to 113,000 square feet on more than 10 acres. Each campus has a local pastor and holds weekly worship services at 9 and 11 a.m. Sundays.
The request will be reviewed by village staff. A public hearing will be held in front of the advisory planning and zoning commission before an official decision is made.
"It's a reasonable use for a building that's going south," said village Trustee Jim Schultz.