The local Methodist Church congregation has found itself a permanent space to host services in the Eight Corners neighborhood of Brookfield. No, they’re not moving ahead again with plans for a community/worship center — though those embers remain glowing.
Rather, it’s a much smaller, though no less ambitious, plan involving the former dry cleaning business at 9210 Broadway Ave.
On Jan. 4, Compassion United Methodist Church, which is led by the Rev. Karl Sokol, purchased the building and the vacant lot to the west for $170,000 from a real estate trust. Sokol plans to turn the building into a combination for-profit art gallery/retail art supplies business and Sunday worship space for his small but growing congregation.
“We’ve gotten good support from the village,” Sokol said. “They seem to be on board with the idea.”
That message is different than the one the village gave on a prior proposal to build a large community/worship center across Washington Avenue at one of the eight points of the intersection that makes up Eight Corners.
Sokol’s mother, Linda Sokol Francis, was the driving force of that plan. In 2009 and 2010, she spent about $1 million of her own money to buy up several parcels of land in the 3400 block of Grand Boulevard. She then pitched an ambitious plan to build a community center/worship space along with an ice cream parlor on the land.
The village denied the application and Francis transferred title to much of the property to the Methodist Church, which still owns it. A corporation called God’s Will LLC, whose officers include Francis and her son, still owns the pie-shaped parcel at the tip of Eight Corners, framed by Grand Boulevard and Washington Avenue.
“We’re still moving ahead with the community center,” said Sokol, who added the corporation has not re-approached the village with a new plan. “We’re just working on getting wider community support, which I think we have.”
In the meantime, with a congregation that doesn’t require a large worship space, Sokol has hit upon a transition plan involving the former dry cleaning business. It’ll provide a home for the congregation, which Sokol says has used 12 different spaces, including a martini bar, for worship since it was founded in 2011.
“It’s an ideal spot,” Sokol said.
From the space, Compassion United Methodist can start its art-based ministries in Brookfield. A primary part of that will be a gallery, selling original art and art supplies.
Sokol, who called himself a frustrated artist who enjoys painting but isn’t a pro, said he’ll be reaching out to professional artists he knows about in the clergy as well as community artists, who lack places to show and sell their works.
“There aren’t a lot of places for artists who are in the middle to show their work,” Sokol said. “There are coffee shops looking for free decoration and there’s the high-end market, but for the middle, there’s really no outlet at all.”
The gallery, Sokol said, would seek out “good-quality art that’s not ridiculously expensive.”
Another part of the mission will be providing art opportunities for both children and adults in the form of classes, which he said are becoming harder to find in public schools.
In between exhibitions of work by professional artists, there’ll be events focusing on children’s work, for example, Sokol said.
If all goes well, Sokol said he’d like the gallery to open during the summer, with the congregation beginning Sunday worship there on Sept. 11.
“We’re planning now with a general contractor and architect to make it a nice, compelling space,” Sokol said.