Five Points Washington is not the only nonprofit, multipurpose facility in the Peoria area. Inside the old Great Central Insurance Building at Sheridan and War Memorial Drive, the Life Together Center now houses the Central Illinois Youth Symphony, Look! It’s My Book, Lifelink International Adoption Services and the Community Foundation of Central Illinois as tenants.

“Our goal with the building really is to have cost-sharing partners,” explains Kim Snarr, Director of Congregational Life & Events at First Federated Church, which purchased the property in 2010. “We’re not looking to make money.”

While the top priority for the building’s six venue spaces (ranging from a 275-capacity hall to more intimate rooms) remains the church and its events, they are available for private use as well. “It’s a great location,” stresses Snarr. “We’re right in the heart of Peoria. People can bring in their own caterer… and we have a ton of parking. There’s a full kitchen, many room sizes, and it’s affordable.”

Readying the space for such versatile use was not easy. “When you walked into the building after we bought it, it was really overwhelming,” she says. “There was all this stuff left behind… cubicles and desks, filing cabinets and chairs… It was hard to envision anything beyond what it was.” But as renovations began, they made some exciting discoveries, like the big, beautiful wooden beams behind the drop ceiling in what’s now deemed the “Great Hall.”

Moving forward, there’s still work to be done, and the church remains open to new possibilities, but Snarr says they’re excited by the feedback they’ve received so far. “A lot of churches, when seeking out new buildings or space… they’ve identified a need and they go out to fill that need,” she explains. “In our case, we were approached: here’s this building—this great opportunity. So we proceeded first, and then we had to figure out what to do with it.

“It was a leap of faith,” she adds. “But we just thought, ‘Let’s do it and figure it out as we go.’ And that’s what we’re doing.” a&s