February 26, 2014 - Someone new is moving into the former Saturn/Nissan building at 8400 Dixie Highway, but not to sell or service cars.
From left, Kyle Gerrild, Pastor Dale Woods, and Chris Horvath are in the soon-to-be-renovated former Saturn dealership on Dixie Highway. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
Clarkston Free Methodist Church bought the buildings and property.
"We're excited to be relocating here to continue serving our community," said Dale Woods, lead pastor.
Dozens of church volunteers are working to clean and make the building ready for construction.
"We were looking to expand," said Kyle Gerrild, children's pastor. "The current property is land locked, with no room to add parking."
Located next to an interchange with I-75, accessibility is great, Horvath said.
"There's no room for growth at the Maybee Road location," he said.
They considered several properties before selecting the Dixie Highway location.
"We wanted to have a good location in the community," said Chris Horvath, youth pastor. "This has big possibilities."
The church, which has about 350 members, partnered with consultants Building God's Way and the design/build firm of F.E.D from Gladwin, Mich., to help create the design.
Construction and renovation will begin as soon as necessary permits are obtained.
"It's centrally located and it's in pretty good shape," Woods said. "We anticipate moving to the new location sometime in the summer of 2014."
"It's a lot of work – people really rose to the occasion," Horvath said. "It's a huge encouragement."
They plan to sell the current location and move the entire church to the Dixie Highway site, making use of the two buildings already there. The plan is to keep the framework while they rehabilitate, update, and redo the interiors, Woods said.
"The team has been phenomenal – there's a lot of excitement from our people," he said.
The main worship area is to be the former showroom and office area of the dealership. Maintenance bays will be converted to space for church ministries, and the parts department will be converted into nursery, kindergarten space, and restrooms.
They plan to use a glassed-in area up front for displays, such as a Christmas manger scene, Woods said.
"It would be a very pretty spot for a small wedding," he said.
"It's a very visible spot – the creative people in church are looking forward to it," Horvath said.
Overhead doors to the vehicle maintenance bays will be removed, and replaced by a glass wall and pedestrian entryway.
The site's second building will be used for community ministries, including Blessings in a Backpack and Love in the Name of Christ.
"We're exciting about the possibilities it provides," Horvath said. "This enables us to touch more lives."
The next step is approval of permits by Springfield Township. Because minimal changes are requested, the township can grant administrative approval, said Collin Walls, Springfield Township supervisor.
"I was sorry to see Saturn go," Walls said. "But what's most important is it's going to be used, get a fresh coat of paint and new life."
"They have been wonderful, very helpful," Woods said. "It's good for the community to have someone in the building instead of just sitting empty."
The new facility will offer the church children's ministry much more flexibility, a space for kids to stretch, and be an inviting place for families and kids, Gerrild said.
"A lot of opportunity and excitement to teach teens and families, a place for great events and great programming," agreed Horvath.
"A lot of space for ministry, families, kids and teens," Woods said. "Not only transformation of the building, but a new place to call home."
They're planning to host their Vacation Bible School there this summer. Plans for the future includes more expansion, he said.
"We have the space to expand," he said. "It's an opportunity to change how we do things."
"It's an opportunity to help people in the community," Horvath said.
"We hope the community uses the facilities," Woods said. "It offers open activity space we can't offer in our current space."
For more information, check www.clarkstonfmc.org .
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.