The Orchard’s Project Canvas finds its home on the corner of River and Benton Streets in downtown Aurora
At Sunday liturgy at the end of February, The Orchard Community learned about their new home in downtown Aurora. We invited their pastor to tell us about the church’s plans to not be just a church anymore.
For several years now, it has been our dream to not just be a church in the city, but to be a significant part of what makes our city what it is. We believe that the sale of our campus truly repositions us, allowing us to take some significant steps forward towards the realization of that dream.
Plans are currently underway to develop a beautiful and unique space at 100 S. River St. in downtown Aurora that will not only be a perfect new home for The Orchard, but that will also allow us to have an integral seven-day-a-week presence in the heart of our city.
At the new building, we’ll invite the community to eat, gather, and be creative with us. We want it to look something like this.
A few months ago, I was standing in Starbucks and this guy who I kinda know walks up to me and says, “Hey, I heard you’re moving your whole deal to downtown Aurora.” Now the fact that he called it “your deal” was my first clue that this may be one of those conversation I’d want to wiggle my way out of as quickly as possible. But instead, I went on to try and explain what we are doing, when about half way through it all he interrupts me and says, “Wait…so you actually WANT to go to downtown Aurora?”
So here’s the backstory.
My family and I moved to Aurora in 1978. I was five years old. I have a million memories of gulping down free egg nog samples at Oberweis on Lake Street and shopping with my mom at Bergner’s in Northgate. When I was 18 I left for college and swore I would never move back home to Aurora. But somehow, this crazy city of ours kept calling me back. And I finally obliged.
For twelve years now, I’ve had the privilege of leading The Orchard Community – an eclectic and diverse tribe of spiritually hungry seekers. Over the past few years, our hearts have been drawn more and more towards not only being a church in or for our city, but towards actually find ways to help be a part of what makes our city what it is.
So several months ago, when we had the unexpected opportunity to sell our large campus on the far west side of Aurora, we saw it as an opportunity to reposition ourselves to actually be able to take some significant steps forward in being this kind of presence in our city. So this past May, we sold our campus. And three months later we celebrated and said goodbye to the comfortable and familiar confines of a place that had served us well for over seventeen years.
In the months leading up to the sale of our campus, we began to dream about our future space. And as we did that, we found ourselves asking this question, “What if, instead of spending money and energy in creating spaces that are used only 2-3 hours a week on 1-2 days of the week, we instead created the kind of place where people could come, feel at home and gather for all kinds of things, SEVEN days a week?
As our vision began to clarify, we knew that this was going to be about something much bigger than simply plopping our church into downtown Aurora. The vision was evolving into something much bigger than that. Eventually, what we decided to do was to start a completely separate organization that would develop and run a 20,000 square foot, seven-day-a-week social space in the heart of our city that is designed to cultivate creativity, community and culture.
And now it’s actually going to happen.
After spending almost a year searching and walking through dozens and dozens of buildings, we finally found what we believe will be the perfect space to do this: the former Pocus automotive building located at 100 S. River St. in downtown Aurora.
The owner of the building is our longtime friend and lover of Aurora, Kevin Fitzpatrick. After sharing our vision for the space, Kevin kindly agreed to sell the building to us. And I am thrilled to share with you that this past week, the contract was signed and the building will soon become home to an urban coffeehouse, a local artisan market, a full-sized commercial kitchen, business incubator, mid-size rooms that will host seminars and workshops, and a gorgeous 350-seat event space perfect for concerts, corporate events, weddings, art shows and more. The space will also serve as The Orchard’s weekend gathering place.
There is still so much to share, but I’ll save it for another time.
But back to that question that I was asked in Starbucks that day:
“Wait…so you actually WANT to go to downtown Aurora?”
The answer to that is, YES. In fact, not only do we want to go to downtown Aurora, but it is an honor for us to do so. We are thrilled for the opportunity ahead to join together with those who have already been hard at work helping our city to become everything it has the potential to be.
For more background and videos about Project Canvas, click here.
Scott Hodge is lead pastor at The Orchard Community. The church is temporarily located at 1175 Oak St. in North Aurora.
Editor’s note: The Pocus building was the home of Pocus Motor Sales, a car business owned by Paul Peter Pocus Sr. for over 53 years that began with the sale of the Packard, then Studebaker, and finally Mercedes Benz automobiles. In 2006, Joe Vantreese, who developed River Street Plaza, proposed developing the building as residential living, but those plans never got off the ground and Vantreese died in 2011. Local real estate investor Kevin Fitzpatrick recently purchased the building, but quickly arranged to sell it to Project Canvas after meeting with Hodge. “I saw that this would be important for downtown, and the energy behind it is exciting,” Fitzpatrick said. Triple Treat Mentoring is currently leasing the first floor.