Council approves permit; church, bank close on building deal

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

How the new Elk River Lutheran Church will look from the north.

Elk River Lutheran has been given the go-ahead from the city to turn a vacant downtown bank building into a church.

The Elk River City Council unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the project on Monday, March 19, and a day later the Elk River Board of Adjustments approved a variance to the shoreland regulations.

The two approvals were needed for the project to proceed.

Representatives from the church and First National Bank closed on the sale of the former bank building at 729 Main St. on Thursday, March 22. The agreed-upon sale price was $1.2 million.

“Our dream of having a permanent home for Elk River Lutheran Church became a reality today,” Pastor Cyndi Ganzkow-Wold said Thursday. “We are thankful to the City Council and staff for giving their vote of approval; I am sure God is well pleased.”

The main floor plan for Elk River Lutheran Church. The area above and to the right of the dashed line indicates the planned building addition.

The two-year-old church plans to open its new doors this fall. It now operates out of a strip mall between Coborn’s and Menards.

Plans are for a Phase I phased remodeling of the former bank building, followed by a capital Phase II campaign to build a permanent sanctuary facing Main Street within the next two years.

The 3,000-square-foot addition is planned to the north side of the bank building. The exterior will feature limestone accent, brick, stucco, glass and wood beams, according to Elk River Planning Manager Jeremy Barnhart. White stucco on the existing building will be repainted beige to match the addition.

“The new addition will appear seamless,” he told the council.

When it’s all done, the church will have a 365-seat sanctuary as well as a fellowship area, classrooms, offices, a lower level riverfront community room and an outdoor plaza near Main Street.

No one testified at the public hearing the City Council held before the vote.

Council Member Matt Westgaard said the church has done a nice job working with nearby businesses to secure additional parking, which was one of the issues identified early on by the city.

The city requires the church to have 122 parking spaces (one space per three seats in the sanctuary). There are approximately 22 parking spaces on the proposed church site. To meet the parking requirements, Elk River Lutheran has agreements with Dare’s Funeral Home next door and First National Bank across the street for the use of 106 parking spaces.