The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Church, apartment demolished, make way for Smile Student Living complex

An+excavator+sits+outside+Saint+Andrews+Church%2C+between+Daniel+and+Chalmers+street+on+Friday.%0A
Matt Stepp
An excavator sits outside Saint Andrew’s Church, between Daniel and Chalmers street on Friday.

St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and a privately owned apartment building are being demolished following plans to construct a new seven-story apartment complex on the combined plot of land. Visible on the northwest corner of Wright and Chalmers streets, the demolition began on Monday with the intention of completing the construction of a new building by fall 2025. 

The agreement between Fairlawn Capital, owners of the apartment building, and St. Andrew’s comes as the church looks to renovate its outdated building. The prospective building will contain both private apartments along with a remodeled space for St. Andrew’s, a long-standing piece of the University campus. 

Built in 1956, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church has been active on campus for nearly seven decades. The organization’s mission, according to its website, is to provide an inclusive community for University students and faculty. In recent times, however, the historic building began facing several issues with its plumbing, HVAC system and foundation. Beyond these, the building’s lack of physical accessibility made it a difficult space to use.

“All the programming was happening on the main level, and there was a large basement but there was only stair access, so there was no elevator and no way to put one in; it was just such an old building that it kinda outlived its usefulness in a lot of ways,” said Jon Fry, pastor of St. Andrew’s. 

To resolve these issues, the church began considering plans to rebuild inside a larger apartment complex, which would allow it to work within a smaller budget.

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    “Even before the pandemic, there were conversations with different developers in town … The church does not have a ton of money set aside for a project like this, so we were trying to see if somebody would want to put in housing and build us some new space that we would share,” Fry said.

    This led St. Andrew’s to form a partnership with Fairlawn Capital, owners of Smile Student Living. In 2021, Fairlawn Capital acquired 608 E. Chalmers Street, the apartment complex directly behind St. Andrew’s, as a part of a deal with Campus Property Management. 

    Fairlawn Capital and St. Andrew’s began discussing a plan to build a large property that would span both plots of land. In mid-January, the two groups formalized their agreement, and on Jan. 30, the city of Champaign approved the two parties to begin demolition. In line with the academic calendar, construction is intended to be finished by August 2025.

    This new apartment complex will be seven stories tall and will resemble an L shape. It will contain a mix of apartment sizes ranging from studio to four-bedroom units and will include underground parking. 

    Similar to its old location, St. Andrew’s will occupy a portion of the first two floors and face the corner of Chalmers and Wright streets. The church will have its own entrance and elevator and gain an increase in square footage from 6,000 to 9,200 square feet.

    “I think we’ll have more parking space, we’ll have more square footage and the plan is the sanctuary and offices will be on the main level on the first floor, and the second floor will be a large fellowship hall for events, a large meeting room and a small boardroom,” Fry said. 

    This design will allow the church to still operate its own space while being part of the larger building structure. Overall, Fry is optimistic about the change in location and believes it will provide a unique opportunity to be more involved with the student body. 

    “If our goal is to create space for the student community — and there will be students in the same building — we can find ways to connect or at least invite them into the space so that they can see it and it does not feel like something out of place,” Fry said. “We’re kind of in the dreaming, visioning, hoping phase of what could be.” 

     

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