New Downtown Church Hopes to Open by Summer
“It’s definitely still a nightclub- there’s a stripper pole, black lights, all kinds of things.”
By Brandi Makuski
A former nightclub on Clark Street is getting a new life after being vacant for five years.
Divine Word Evangelical Lutheran Church, located in Plover, bought the former Steel Nightclub building in December and has plans to renovate the space into a campus ministry.
Pastor Jim Roecker said the space is perfectly divided- referring to its two separate levels- for the church’s future plans.
“We wanted to do multi-site ministry and offer a campus ministry closer to UWSP than our church in Plover currently is,” Roecker said. “The layout works well because we’re planning on the the lower level being the ministry, and the upper level being kind of a flexible space for community events, bible class and worship services, and we’ll have a cafe up there.”
The ministry will also hold informal activities for students, such as viewing parties for various professional sports, he said.
Roecker said church members will meet on Feb. 21 to discuss and decide on a contractor for the renovation process, which he expects to begin sometime in the spring. Changes to the building include a new entryway and wheelchair lift to make the building more accessible.
But there’s a lot of interior cleanup work to do before that can happen.
“It’s definitely still a nightclub- there’s a stripper pole, black lights, all kinds of things,” Roecker said, laughing. “We’re thinking of maybe [selling items] on Craigslist.”
Steel Nightclub closed its doors in Jan. of 2011 and was later declared abandoned by the city. At the time, the club was well-known by local law enforcement, who were regularly called to the property for problems with violence and drug activity.
“The downtown, as a whole, is somewhat changing,” said Police Chief Marty Skibba. “If [the church] hosts some evenings events, that creates different opportunities of the downtown area at night. If you look at some of the new restaurants that have gone in, too, it’s becoming more of a cross-section of what our whole community is, and I think that’s only going to bring a healthier environment.”
The building, which previously was also home to the American Legion Hall and Friends of Clark Place, is located within the downtown historic district. Michael Ostrowski, director of community development, said any exterior changes must first be approved by the Historical Preservation/Design Review Commission, but he’s glad to see the building is no longer vacant.
“The building had a number of challenges,” Ostrowski said. “One difficulty with that building is when you walk in the front, you’re either going up or you’re going down. That presents a challenge from an architectural standpoint. But to see that building finally be occupied is great.”
Ostroski said the building has some dedicated parking in the rear, as well as free parking in the city-owned lot immediately to the south.
Roecker said while the new ministry is geared towards college students, some activities may be open to the public- such as a community meal- and there’s a possibility of renting space for events.
“We want to work on having the pulse of the community, maybe holding a community rake-a-thon and things like that, to let people know we’re here,” he said.
The church’s location in Plover, 2501 Plover Springs Dr., holds a Thursday night meal, followed by a bible class, Roecker said, and that tradition will continue at the downtown location.
The church hopes to open the facility by August.