Cultural Center location approved
St. Mary’s Church will be relocated to Tower’s Main Street
Aloysia Power
An artist's drawing of the Lake Vermilion Cultural Center.

TOWER - The creation of the Lake Vermilion Cultural Center is officially on its way. On June 9, Tower City Council approved the conditional use permit that will allow for the relocation of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on North Second Street to the corner of Main and Pine streets.

The board’s only requests are that the center’s lights be “subtle and not invasive,” and the organization carry liability insurance.

The center will serve as a lecture hall, concert hall, auditorium and a place to host weddings, youth events, music lessons and movies, Mary Anderson Batinich told the Timberjay in 2012.

Batinich, head of the Lake Vermilion Cultural Center non-profit organization, said the idea started about five years ago when she saw the perfect opportunity to problem solve.

“After living here for a while, I realized there was no senior center, no kids’ center, no (public) library (and) no concert hall,” said Batinich.

Tower was missing a multi-purpose public gathering center, and at the same time, the 125-year-old church she grew up attending was falling apart and its members were dying out. Turning the church into a public center could solve both those problems, she thought.

So, she got the process started.

Last April, the 17 stained glass windows were restored, and late this July, the excavation process on the new site will begin.

The goal is to finish relocating the church by early fall. The building will be kept intact and moved as a whole.

Batinich estimates the cost to move the building, dig the new foundation and install the existing church building in its new plot will cost around $50, 000.

Once it’s relocated, Batinich said the organization wants to finish Phase One by building a multi-use reception area, a lift similar to an elevator, an indoor balcony, bell tower and an undercroft that has a small kitchen, dressing rooms and an office.

“There’re so many things to get done. It’s like a domino effect,” said Linda Haugen, the secretary of the center’s board.

When additional funding is secured in future years, the organization plans to add a 1,400-foot addition onto the back of the center.

“It’s about the size of a small house,” said Batinich.

The addition will feature a gallery hall for art exhibits, a large kitchen for catering and a multipurpose gathering area for meetings, dinners and receptions.

When the whole process is complete, the new center will have a capacity of 170 people.

“This is the beginning entry to Tower, so we want this to really wow people as they come in,” said Haugen.

So far, private donations and public fundraisers have funded the project.

The next fundraiser for the Lake Vermilion Cultural Center is the Midsummer dinner at the Tower Civic Center on June 21 from 4:30 to 9 p.m.

The center is also looking for sponsors for the entrance hall. Sponsors would get naming rights and should contact Batinich at malexbat@gmail.com. You can learn more about the project by visiting their website at www.vermilionculturalcenter.org.

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