As Central Lutheran Church in downtown Chippewa Falls has seen its membership grow, church leaders began looking for more space.

“We were landlocked,” said pastor Aaron Sturgis. “If anything becomes available around us, we have to do our due diligence and look at it.”

The church, located at 28 E. Columbia St., has purchased the BMO Harris Bank immediately to the east, at 411 N. Bridge St. The deal was finalized Tuesday after months in the works; terms of the sale were not disclosed.

BMO Harris has sold a number of its buildings in recent years, Sturgis said. The church members approached the owners of the bank building and asked about possibly buying it, or leasing part of the building. They came to an agreement to buy it entirely.

A wall has been erected in the middle of the building, creating two separate entities. BMO Harris Bank will continue operating as a bank in about half of the main floor of the facility, and customers can still enter the bank from the main entrance off of North Bridge Street.

The church will move its offices into the bank building, using a separate door that faces the church.

“It’s turn-key, move-in ready,” Sturgis said. “We’ll do the interior design.”

The basement of the bank building will be redesigned and turned into a youth center.

“There are two large conference rooms (in the basement) that will be perfect,” he said.

The second floor, which has numerous offices for rent, will remain as-is, with those leases remaining in place.

Sturgis is thrilled the deal is done.

“We’ve grown quite a bit,” Sturgis said. “In the last five years, we’ve seen a lot of growth. Our current facility, the way it is shaped, no longer meets the needs. We want to be constantly thinking about how we can meet the needs of our community. That’s the exciting thing — it will present us with that opportunity.”

The church turned to its 1,400 members and got approval to move forward.

“We launched a capital appeal in late January for $1.5 million over three years,” Sturgis said. “It’s been a lot of work.”

Sturgis said they are nearly at their financial goal. The money will be used for both a down payment on the bank purchase as well as remodeling the interior of two-thirds of the church building.

“Our partners at Central’s response have just been humbling,” he said. “People in Chippewa are very proud of their community. We just firmly believe in the mission, that God is at work in Chippewa.”

By acquiring the bank building, the church is poised for even more growth, he said.

“We’re just excited to be a church in the downtown Chippewa Falls community, to see how we can impact our community in many positive ways,” Sturgis said. “We really want to reach the ‘un-churched’ population in Chippewa Falls.”

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