Metro-East News

Metro-east church wants to find a permanent home in closed school

A church wants to locate in a building at the former Belle Valley North School, which closed a few years ago due to mine subsidence.
A church wants to locate in a building at the former Belle Valley North School, which closed a few years ago due to mine subsidence. dholtmann@bnd.com

Ever since the Abundant Life Ministries incorporated in 2009 as a church, it has been looking for a permanent place to call home.

Now the 100-member church, which holds services at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, is looking to move into a former school to carry out its ministry.

“We want a church home, a place we can continue ministry through the week,” said Nathan Johnson, the pastor of Abundant Life Ministries. “We want something permanent with our vision.”

The St. Clair County Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled on Monday to vote on the church’s proposal to move to a location near Belleville at 100 Andora Drive, a former Belle Valley School District building.

The zoning board had discussed the proposal in August but wanted additional information before making a recommendation to the County Board, said Anne Markezich, the director of St. Clair County Building and Zoning Department.

The building had previously been an elementary school, Belle Valley North, but closed several years ago because of mine subsidence, Markezich said.

My job has me in the resurrection business. I’m looking to resurrect that building.

Nathan Johnson, pastor of Abundant Life Ministries

“That is a concern of the board, if it’s a safe building,” Markezich said.

When Belle Valley moved out, there was an addition that was sinking, Markezich said. She said the addition has been removed.

Johnson said he has insurance companies who have walked through the building and are willing to insure the building as there is no longer an issue with subsidence.

If the church is approved by the county, services would be scheduled on Tuesday nights and Sundays.

The church also is looking to eventually start a day care which would operate Monday through Friday and be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; it would be for children up to 5 years old, Markezich said. During the summer the age range would expand to 12 years old.

However, the day care would start small, with special days for parents who need to have someone watch their children while they run errands, Johnson said.

The roads at the location have gates and will be closed when there’s no church or school day care.

There is some cosmetic work, such as lighting and painting, that would need to be done to the 42,000-square-foot building. The gym would become the area for worship services, Johnson said. The library would become a welcome area, and classrooms could be converted into meeting rooms.

If approved by the county, Johnson said the church hopes to close on the property within 30 to 60 days. Johnson would not disclose the potential sale price nor cost of any work.

They are hoping to have an open house to allow nearby neighbors to tour the building.

Johnson said the current owners have maintained the building well.

“My job has me in the resurrection business. I’m looking to resurrect that building,” Johnson said.

To attend

  • What: St. Clair County Zoning Board of Appeals
  • When: 7 p.m. Monday
  • Where: St. Clair County Courthouse at 10 Public Square Room B-564, Belleville
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