After foreclosure, Harvard church moves back in

HARVARD – Three years ago, Bishop David Gardner walked out of Solid Rock Community Church’s Old Orchard Road location sure that he’d never be back.

The recession had taken its toll. As the church was set to enter into a contract to buy at about $370,000 the 10,000-square-foot building it’d been at for about four years, Gardner said, Solid Rock fell on hard times. A separate issue with the property owner pushed the building into foreclosure.

Fast forward to this summer, and the congregation of about 60 has returned to 602 Old Orchard Road – at a purchase price almost a third of the original total. Gardner said the property was foreclosed and sat vacant for three years before the church bought it for $135,000 from American Bank & Trust in Woodstock.

“I think it was just God’s timing, myself,” said Gardner, the church’s pastor. “My son was driving and the subject came up. I said, ‘Well, it won’t hurt to call the bank.’ ”

A representative from American Bank & Trust didn’t return calls for comment for this story, but Jim Haisler, chief executive officer of the Heartland Realtor Organization, said there are several potential reasons the value of the property might have dropped so drastically.

The shape and appearance of church buildings generally limit their marketability and can hurt their value, he said.

He added that banks – making decisions in conjunction with asset managers and real estate professionals – sometimes opt to sell foreclosure properties at a price that allows them to simply recoup losses of an unpaid loan from the previous owner.

In that case, the price is “based on what their investment is, not necessarily what the actual price on the market could be.”

No matter the reasoning for the discount, Gardner is chalking the church’s gain up to a miracle.

“We approached that bank by faith,” he said.

Since leaving the location in 2010, Solid Rock had been operating out of a storefront at 343 S. Division St. that offered just 1,100 square feet of space – barely more than a tenth the size of the building on Old Orchard.

“It was interesting,” Gardner said.

Gardner himself is considering handing over the reins of pastor to his 22-year-old son, Jordan, as early as September.

He said it’s an “unexpected victory” that he’ll be able to do so in a real church – not the makeshift one they’ve been using since 2010.

“The way that this all came about was definitely something that was a blessing,” he said.

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