Plan Commission approves Franklin Elementary renovations; new Salem Lutheran sanctuary

By Nick Kovatch on October 3 at 8:42am

The former Franklin Elementary School could soon become affordable housing for senior citizens and those with developmental disabilities.

The facility, closed by District 117 last year, was sold to Morgan County Civic Services in May for $82,000. Last night, the Jacksonville Plan Commission unanimously approved to rezone the property at 352 Franklin to be used as apartments.

Fred Clinton is Morgan County Civic Services’ executive director.

“We have an application into the Illinois Housing Development Authority for trust funds and permanent supportive housing funds to develop the property into low-income affordable housing for individuals 55 and older, and individuals that have special needs that would have supportive services in place,” says Clinton.

Clinton says each of the classrooms and some of the office space would be developed into 13 one or two-bedroom apartments.

“And the gymnasium, cafeteria, some of the common areas we requested special use zoning that we’d be able to use those spaces available to the community,” says Clinton. “The auditorium would also be made available to groups or organizations that might want to use that space for a presentation or a meeting. And we’ll be enhancing the parking and landscaping to make that more desirable.”

Clinton says parking lots will be resurfaced and restriped, and new windows will be installed.

He says most of the apartments would be occupied by senior citizens, but a couple may be used by those with developmental disabilities. Clinton says Morgan County Civic Services contracts with social management agencies, like Pathway Services and Elm City Center, to provide services to those with special needs living at the planned school-turned-apartment complex.

Clinton adds Civic Services is also applying for Section 8 vouchers with HUD approval to reach out to low-income families to live in three of the prospective apartments.

He says Civic Services should know in two or three months if they’ll get funding from the Illinois Housing Development Authority for the project.

“And if we are funded then I would say right after the 1st of the year we would start submitting documentation to IHDA showing ownership of the property,” says Clinton. “We wouldn’t be looking to develop a partnership, per say. This would be owned by Morgan County Civic Services. That process should take place pretty rapidly with development and renovation activities starting shortly thereafter.”

City Council has the final say on the project at its next meeting October 15th.

Also last night, Jacksonville Plan Commission unanimously approved plans for a new sanctuary for Salem Lutheran Church near South East and College.

Peter Brechbul is pastor for Salem Lutheran Church and School.

“We’re building about a 300 seat sanctuary now that we have the building permit that was approved by the plan commission,” says Brechbul.”We hope to actually have the contractor, and that’s R.D. Lawrence of Springfield, moving in equipment and breaking ground next week. Our hope, if we get good weather from the Lord, is to have the dedication of the sanctuary in August of 2014.

Brechbul says the funding for the project comes from church offerings and has been about 40 years in the making.

“We’re building this sanctuary to the glory of God,” says Brechbul. “Our current sanctuary is over 90 years old and it has become very run down. The accessibility is difficult. We’re very excited that there will be no stairs, no balcony. Everything will be on the same level. There will be a canopy drop off and it’s slightly larger seating than we presently have.”

He says the existing sanctuary will be demolished in the summer of 2015.