WASHINGTON — The space is cold and barren as demolition work continues.

In a few months, by late spring or early summer, the 25,000-square-foot section of the former Walmart and Tractor Supply Company building at 1750 Washington Road will be transformed into the permanent home for Connect Church, which has operated out of temporary venues since it was founded in 2013.

Uftring Chevrolet used the church's space and the building's parking lot for nearly a year while its new dealership was being built a few hundred yards away at 1860 Washington Road.

The former dealership at the same location was destroyed by a massive fire Jan. 5, 2018. The new dealership opened Dec. 17, 2018.

Connect Church purchased the space in the former Walmart/Tractor Supply Company building in late 2017, but put its plans to move into the building on hold and leased its space and parking to Uftring Chevrolet so the dealership could continue operating at a convenient location that is appropriate for its size.

It was an easy decision to delay the church's move, said the Rev. Dave Jane.

"God put our church here to serve the community, and that's what we did with our arrangement with Uftring," he said. "At the time we leased our space, I did think, wow, we have to wait a whole year to move in. But the year went quickly. And now we're more ready to move than ever."

Connect Church holds its Sunday services for about 480-520 each week in the gym, cafeteria and a classroom at Washington Middle School. It also leases space at a former church at 104 S. Elm St. in Washington. The Connect Church office is located there.

"We love our partnership with the middle school. We'll be donating our chairs and our mat that goes under the chairs to the school after we leave," Jane said. "We've always known that, eventually, we'd go to a permanent home."

Jane said it takes a crew of 30 volunteers working two hours to set everything up for Connect Church services each week. There are two teams of volunteers.

"For us to delay our move for a year was a hard pill for those volunteers to swallow," Jane said. "But they knew it was the right thing to do."

John Haase has worked for Uftring Chevrolet for nearly 30 years. The parts counterman began his employment there in June 1989.

After watching the dealership burn down on a bitterly cold January day and learning a few days later that Connect Church was putting its plans to move on hold so Uftring Chevrolet would have a nearby place to do business, Haase decided to attend the next Sunday service with his wife at Connect Church as a way of saying thank you.

He recognized Jane at the service.

"The pastor was a customer of mine," Haase said. "I sold him windshield wiper blades. After I refreshed his memory, he remembered me, too."

Haase and his wife now attend Connect Church services regularly, about three times a month.

"I like the way the pastor presents God's message," Haase said.

Jane said Connect Church's new home will have an auditorium that seats 450, seven classrooms that can accommodate 225, a multi-purpose room, a foyer with a coffee bar and an office for the church's four full-time and two part-time staff members.

He hopes the church's facilities will be hopping seven days a week, and not just with Connect Church events.

"We want our church to be a place for the entire community," he said.

There was a reason why Connect Church opted for the vacant space in the former Walmart/Tractor Supply Company building instead of constructing its own church, Jane said. The space had been empty since Tractor Supply Company closed in 2015.

"The space wasn't an eyesore, but it was a shame that it was sitting empty for so long," Jane said. "We feel we're giving the space new life. That's our message in church, too. God is always breathing new life into our bodies."

Connect Church's new home is next to the grounds for the annual Good Neighbor Days festival, held in late May.

Church members have been volunteers at the festival. Jane said that will continue and the church will become more involved in the festival because of its proximity.

Meanwhile, Haase said he's thrilled to be working in the new Uftring Chevrolet dealership.

"It's nice to be in a permanent home," he said. "The temporary place served us well. It wasn't fancy, but we made it work. What Connect Church did for us was a blessing."

A&J Storage & Development owns the remainder of the former Walmart/Tractor Supply Company building, a 50,000-square-foot space. A&J also leased parking to Uftring Chevrolet.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.