Elk River Lutheran looks to remodel bank

by Jim Boyle

Elk River Lutheran Church is seeking a conditional use permit to remodel and expand the former First National  Bank building on Main Street in downtown Elk River.

The church, which currently operates out of a strip mall between Coborn’s and Menards in Elk River,  submitted the request to the city of Elk River at the end of January.

What used to be First National Bank could become Elk River Lutheran Church if it gets a permit.

Church leaders have a purchase agreement with First National Bank. They hope to close on the deal by the end of the March.

John Houlton, the CEO and president of First National Financial Services, said it’s the hope of bank officials that the conditional use permit (CUP) process is more of a formality. A church is an acceptable use, he said.

“We’re very pleased,” Houlton said of the purchase agreement. “What could provide more stability to the downtown than this?”

The former bank building, which overlooks the Mississippi River, is the same building that other businesses and organizations have expressed interest in, including the Elk River Area Arts Alliance that had it in its sights for a regional arts center.

Elk River Lutheran’s CUP is expected to be considered by the Elk River Planning Commission on March 13, according to Jeremy Barnhart, the planning manager for the city of Elk River.

The congregation’s Building Task Force for Conditional Use Permit is working through the process of acquiring the CUP, and one of its co-chairs, Lee Davies, told the Star News it was too early to comment publicly on the matter.

The congregation’s February bulletin provided members of the congregation an update, and in it Karen Dear, the president of the congregation, offered thanks to the task force that has put in more than 100 hours meeting with architects, staff and committees to refine details.

The design has been prepared by Vanman Architects and Builders in collaboration with Douglas Derr Architects.

The church council approved the designs on Jan. 17 and those were published in this month’s Elk River Lutheran Church bulletin. Those plans have also been submitted to the city, and the newsletter notes the Elk River City Council will take the matter up on March 19.

In the meantime, a building committee will be appointed by the church council, the bulletin stated. The newsletter describes the project as a two-phase project that deals with the existing building and a sanctuary addition.

The church is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Elk River Lutheran formed after Central Lutheran Church in Elk River voted to leave the ELCA.