By Dan Flynn
Doors have been opening up in Northfield Township. I’m excited to see where God leads us next!
As part of the process of seeking God’s direction for next year, the St. Luke multi-site will be talking about a Letter of Intent at our congregational meeting on Monday, June 16 at 7:00 PM at our St. Luke—Ann Arbor site.
The purpose of this letter is to provide direction for the process of potentially purchasing a building on North Territorial Road for use by our multi-site, especially as a launch pad for reaching the Whitmore Lake area through our Living Water site.
Letter of Intent
A Letter of Intent is a document given to a seller that tells them the buyer is seriously considering the purchase of their property, providing certain contingencies are fulfilled. It would not legally bind us to the purchase, but it would offer some protection from another buyer purchasing the property without our knowledge.
This Letter of Intent would lay out the steps we would need to take as a congregation to acquire the property. It’s not the end of the process; rather, it clarifies the process for us. The first steps of this process were taken with leadership; now we have the groundwork for broader conversation in the community.
In February I was approached by some of our Living Water family to look at a possible building that could serve our needs. I admit I was quite hesitant. I had a plan, and this didn’t fit my plan.
My intention was to build up the land account for two or three years before moving on anything. I have learned that God often times has a different intention than I do, and I need to be open and not get entrenched. On that February Monday, eight of us walked through the facility. I walked in hesitating. I slowly grew to see the amazing potential of the facility.
I have said often since that point that God will shut doors where doors need to be shut. If the doors shut for this building, we know we would have to do something else.
From that February Monday forward we have had well over fifty St. Luke members/leaders walk through the building from all three sites. This included the Spiritual Leadership Council (SLC) and our Executive Elder team, along with other members. Each group gave positive encouragement to keep walking through the doors of possibly purchasing the building.
“I walked in hesitating. I slowly grew to see the amazing potential of the facility.”
I asked the President of Church Extension Fund (CEF) to walk through the building with Pastor Justin and myself. As president he provides the mortgage money to purchase the property. Case in point, the St. Luke building mortgage is with CEF along with all other LCMS churches in Michigan.
President Steinke liked the building and supports buying an established facility over building a new building. It is a cost savings.
He also asked two things of us: 1) write a business plan and 2) see if we can get another non-profit renter for additional revenue. We are working on both right now.
I asked Larry Frank, a seasoned architect, to walk through the building and tell me what he thinks. Larry led me through a two hour tour of every corner and pipe in the place. He murmured, “We can’t let this slip through our fingers.”
What’s There to Love?
The building is 19,000 square feet with the back of the building facing a considerable woods. No one will ever build behind the building. It is recommended by CEF that a first building for a congregation be about 15,000 square feet. This gives space to grow and not suffocate the next generation.
The facility had been used as a software training business so it has wide open rooms as well as classrooms for training. These are easily adapted to our congregational needs. As with any of this there will be a need for some renovation.
The location is outstanding. It is within a half mile of US 23 so it is easily accessible for those driving from the south or the north. It is off North Territorial Road which makes it easily accessible from the east and the west.
The area is prime for growth. The township is now being approached for major housing developments in the North Territorial area. There is also adjacent property that is available for possible purchase. Ideally, the recommendation is to have about 15 acres.
The infrastructure, according to Larry Frank, our architect, is excellent. The building has numerous windows for natural lighting. The lobby is welcoming with high ceilings and a great place for people to gather. The cafeteria will likely be the sanctuary and has large ceiling to floor windows facing the woods. The building has excellent curb-side appeal. The landscaping is well done with 100 parking spaces and overflow parking in the cul-de-sac.
We will be able to utilize the space for 24-hour ministry. This becomes our congregational launch pad into the area north of Ann Arbor. Certainly Whitmore Lake and Northfield Township but also southern Brighton to the north and South Lyon to the east and the northern Dexter area to the west. We will have a permanent anchor and launch pad for our ministry. I’m excited to see what we can do as we step forward into our second decade at Living Water.
Where Are We Now?
Up to this point we have been exploring options, expanding the number of people involved as each new door opened. In mid May I was contacted by the seller’s real estate agent that there is another potential buyer looking at the building. He suggested a Letter of Intent.
I spoke with CEF President Ron Steinke, Pastor Justin, and Congregational President Paul Dickerson about the potential of a letter. It was decided to approach our SLC that has representatives from all three sites to discuss it.
The SLC agreed that a letter is to be written with contingencies of a business plan, additional revenue potential, and congregational approval, as well as the negotiated cost for the facility. This letter would then serve as a way of laying out for the congregation what steps we still need to take before we can purchase the building. At the same time, it lets the seller know we are seriously pursuing this option.
This letter would serve as a way of laying out for the congregation what steps we still need to take before we can purchase the building.
It’s important to remember that we are not voting to buy a building at this congregational meeting. Instead, we are deciding to move forward with a process that would allow us to vote at a different date to purchase this property, if all of the other contingencies are also met.
Questions We Still Need to Answer
As the Letter of Intent will lay out, there are still a couple of questions that need to be answered. If God continues to open doors, these obstacles will be removed. If any of these doors close, we will wait on further direction and development. Here are a few of the questions that remain in the process:
- Can we get the zoning changed? The building is in a technology/ research park that is not zoned for churches. Two of our members asked the Northfield Township Manager to consider a change in the zoning. This proposal was presented to the Northfield Planning Commission. They have granted a change in the zoning that is now moving forward to the Northfield Township Board for approval on June 4.
- How can we afford it? We are developing a business plan that will help answer that question specifically. The plan will also include a partnership with other like-minded non-profit organizations who would rent from us during the week. The final cost of the building will also determine if we are able to purchase now. All of these things are contingencies in the Letter of Intent.
I admit I keep looking for doors to close. This five acre parcel has a fine building that would truly serve our congregation in reaching out to the community as well as discipling believers to a more mature faith. It is an exciting time. You can go and look at the building: 7050 Jomar Drive. It is less than a half mile off US 23 on North Territorial Road going east, on the left hand side.
Please join me in praying for God’s guidance and direction. Our desire is to connect people who don’t know Jesus with the ongoing adventure of discipleship. Perhaps this building will be one tool God places in our hands to do just that.
Start praying now. And join us for the voters’ meeting on June 16.