Nomadic Church Buys Land to Build Worship Center
An artist's rendering of the proposed Riverbank Church to be located on the former Holiday Inn property in White River Junction, Vt. (Courtesy Riverbank Church)
A simple wooden cross marks the future site of Riverbank Church's new home in White River Junction, Vt. on November 6, 2013. The location marks the end of a long search by the church for a permanent location. The church currently operates out of the Tupelo Music Hall. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
White River Junction — An Upper Valley church announced Thursday that it has purchased a 5.4-acre parcel off Sykes Mountain Avenue to build a permanent place of worship.
Riverbank Church has held services in a number of locations since its launch in 2010, and church leaders said they are looking forward to having a stable home.
“It’s exciting because it gives us the ability to be permanent and to be able to serve our community more effectively,” said Riverbank Church pastor Chris Goeppner.
The parcel purchased by the church for $399,000 on Holiday Drive, near the Gilman Office Complex, is the former site of a hotel, once a Holiday Inn, and more recently a Regency Inn.
All that could be seen at 259 Holiday Drive on Wednesday was a grassy lot and a six-foot-tall, handcrafted wooden cross located near the center of the parcel.
That is expected to change next year.
Plans are to erect an 11,000-square-foot worship center with a 300-seat auditorium , an indoor common area with seating, classrooms , an outdoor fire pit and a separate space for community events such as conferences, seminars and blood drives, according to a news release.
The design of the church is far from the New England tradition of spires and clapboard. It features a flat slanted roof, bold colors and steel ribbed exterior wall panels.
“We are a 21st century church reaching 21st century people,” Goeppner said. “It will attract a broader spectrum of people versus a conventional white building with a white steeple.”
Goeppner said Riverbank wants to raise $500,000 before securing a construction loan for the project, which is projected to cost $1.5 million. The target to break ground is next spring.
The congregation has been meeting in Tupelo Music Hall for the past six months, and prior to that, services were held at nine other locations, including Hartford High School and the Lebanon Opera House.
A year ago, church leaders decided the time had come to find land to build a permanent home as the church grew from eight members to more than 300. Goeppner said the Holiday Drive parcel was attractive because it required minimal site work.
In February, church leaders proposed converting a warehouse-style building next to the Lebanon Municipal Airport into a church, but were unsuccessful when the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment denied a variance needed for the project. Under the city’s zoning rules, churches aren’t allowed in industrial zones.
Church leaders won’t have to face the Hartford Zoning Board of Adjustment, however, because the parcel sits in a zoning district that allows places of worship, according to Lori Hirshfield, director of Hartford’s Department of Planning and Development Services.
The project would need site plan development approval from the town’s Planning Commission.
The parcel was sold by Valley Land Corp., which is marketing nearly 90 acres of commercially zoned land near Holiday Drive . One of the properties for sale includes the 32-lane bowling alley and nightclub building, formerly known as Upper Valley Lanes and Games.
“We are glad to see the property being put to use,” said Hartford Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg.
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.