Key Moments Leading Up to the Decision to Relocate University Lutheran Church

— by Steve Strauch

Editor’s Note: University Lutheran Church is on the move, heading to a new physical location by the fall of 2017, just in time to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation. A decision of this magnitude didn’t come lightly—or quickly. Here, Steve Strauch, district vice president of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, shares the moments leading up to the decision to vacate the aging Chauncey Hill location in favor of the highly visible Exponent building in the heart of Purdue’s campus.  #ULuOnTheMove

Since 2012, University Lutheran Church (ULu) knew they wanted to do something about their existing facility, which was in desperate need of updates and renovations. The district office took those concerns into consideration and worked with ULu on developing a solution. It was decided to add a new building addition to the existing Chauncey Hill structure. This decision, in turn, led to a capital campaign, with the benchmark of breaking ground for a new addition to the Chauncey Hill location in October of 2015, which we did. We planned to start building in March 2016.

All was moving according to schedule, when I received a call in between Christmas 2015 and New Year’s Day 2016, asking if we would be interested in sell the property. This call absolutely came out of the blue. Of course, I told the broker we weren’t interested. “In fact,” I said, “your timing couldn’t be worse. We are getting ready to start building in March.” The broker asked if we would entertain a letter of intent. “Probably not,” was my reply. “You can send the letter, but it’s not going to happen.”

Over the course of the next few weeks, the broker kept sending us communication. Finally I told them, “Look. The only way we would ever consider selling is if we could find a better facility closer to campus.”

Little known to us, The Exponent was also looking for a solution for their facilities at the same time. They weren’t thinking of selling the building at first; instead, they were looking for lessees. We entered into a discussion with them, but it was multiple months before we could come to an agreement. Keep in mind that both parties in this discussion, LCMS and The Exponent, are non-profit organizations. We’re not really in the business of swapping properties, so it took us awhile to get to the table.

Ultimately, the deciding factor to move the ULu ministry came down to this. For years, our campus ministry wasn’t on campus. True, we’ve been located in the heart of the village, but that location hasn’t helped us connect with students, particularly underclassmen who might not have access to off-campus transportation. The move to the former Exponent building means that we will be right there for people to touch and feel and understand what University Lutheran is, creating more contacts and greater visibility. This, in turn, will give us a more robust campus ministry.

Now that we have come to an agreement, we are making steady progress toward the move. You can read more about the timeline for ULu relocation here. And be sure to check back often for regular updates on our progress as we meet milestones and march steadily toward project completion, resulting in a dynamic new space for ULu’s campus ministry.