Greenfield - The unlikely task of turning the former Walmart at 4500 S. 108th St. into a church is well under way.
The Ridge Community Church bought the more than 100,000-square-foot building after Walmart moved around the corner, opening a larger store at 10600 W. Layton Ave. The church intends to use about 60,000 square feet of the building and lease the remaining 50,000 square feet to commercial/retail businesses.
Phase one, under way now, is to create a worship auditorium to seat 625 people, classrooms for childhood, teen and adult ministries, administrative offices and a café. That will take up about 38,000 square feet. The church is reserving another 22,000 square feet for future church expansion.
Getting the business section ready for leasing will be the second phase.
"It's really coming along," said the Rev. Mark Weigt, Ridge pastor. "We're ahead of schedule."
The biggest challenge is getting the acoustics right in the sanctuary in the center of the building. That's important because the church has a full band and presents videos, Weigt said.
There is a design advantage in renovating a big-box store. The site's accessibility should help the church fulfill its mission of connecting people with God, he explained.
To take away any barriers, the church won't have a steeple but will have a modernistic sign that church officials hope will be welcoming.
The church goal is to show people that the church is practical and meaningful in their everyday lives, Weigt said.
The Ridge Community Church, founded about six years ago, currently holds weekly services at Whitnall High School, 5000 S. 116th St. Weigt said he expects weekly services to begin in the new building in early spring.
- Jane Ford-Stewart
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