West Allis - River Church Assembly of God has the blessings of the Common Council to turn the old West Allis-West Milwaukee School District's administration building into a church.
"I think the site has not been taxable for so many years and it's a good thing for the kids," Alderman Vincent Vitale said of the church proposal last week.
Renovating a school building
River Church has renovated and now can occupy 12,000 square feet on the first floor of the 41,000-square-foot building. The sanctuary has been designed to seat up to 200.
The congregation of more than 100 has signed a yearlong lease with the school district in a deal that will allow the rent to be put toward the $2.1 million purchase price of the building, which has been vacant since January 2011. (The district administration has moved into its current quarters at 1205 S. 70th St.)
The May 1 public hearing on the proposal generated little opposition, though speakers did suggest the city address some minor points of concern.
At an earlier neighborhood meeting, some residents had expressed concerns that their driveways might be blocked on Sunday mornings, said Alderman Thomas Lajsic.
They also wanted to make sure that one particular driveway that has become a handy shortcut to Lincoln Avenue remains open to traffic, he said. To help out on that point, the city voted to require the church to remove temporary driveway barricades, which are set up an hour before services, to be taken down within an hour after services.
One 95th Street resident cautioned city and church officials that he has seen kids darting into the streets, apparently playing chicken with cars, near the building at 9333 W. Lincoln Ave. "As a church, they probably should look at that," he said.
Working with youth
Also at the hearing, two congregation members noted that the church has had a positive impact on the behavior of youths who attend.
Maggie Nina, a church member since August, said the church has made progress with some troubled youth. Instead of breaking into cars or struggling with drug abuse, some kids have gone back to school and attend church on Sundays and Wednesdays - and they are bringing their parents, too, she added.
Mary Ellen Krygier of 85th Street in West Allis who has attended the church three times said she was astonished at how some young people had changed in that short time."They were changed youth," she said in terms of their attitude, appearance and the respectful way they speak to people.
The church was formed last May and began by renting space at the Heritage Christian School, 1300 S. 109th St., West Allis. Then it moved to larger quarters, sharing a chapel at 81st and Lapham streets with another congregation.
The church again decided to move when it needed more space, but this time sought a long-term solution.
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