The New Life church will begin a slow and steady move June 8 into the unoccupied space on the east side of the Francis Square building, next to Sears and Francis Pawn.

New Life church has bought the entire building, but Sears and Francis Pawn will remain where they are. Despite speculation otherwise on radio and social media, they never planned to move.

“We’re here to stay,” managers at both stores told the Bulletin on Friday.

On Saturday morning, church volunteers will start cleaning up the parking lot. Design plans are being finalized with an architecture firm. The church will take over the east half of the building, which has been unoccupied since the SunMart grocery closed two years ago.

The church plans to open next year in its new location.

New Life has a campus in Kearney and plans to open another in the fall in Ogallala. The North Platte church opened at 315 East Fifth in September 2014, next to the Fox Theater. Attendance has surged beyond 300 people on weekends, church officials said.

In the new building, New Life will exchange an 8,800 sq.-ft. building for 21,000 sq-ft.  Sears and Francis Pawn will continue to lease the west half of the building.

The price of the building was $1.5 million, according to Lincoln County records. GSLP Consulting LLC, owned by Lonnie Parsons, was the seller.

Ashley Hays, the lead sales representative at Sears, understands that the parking lot will be cleared, a new sign installed on the corner and flower beds planted near the entrance. She said there will be space for another new retail business inside, and the entire entrance might be renovated to provide easy access to the businesses and the church.

“New Life Church in North Platte has experienced consistent growth since we opened the doors four and a half years ago,” lead pastor Jeff Baker said. “With this additional space, we want to help more people find Jesus and see their lives changed.”

North Platte New Life Pastor Dave Cumming said he’s seen God “restore marriages that were on the brink of ending, break people free from addictions, give youth direction in life, and radically transform the lives of others. I love North Platte and the surrounding area. I’m excited about moving into a larger facility so we can make room for more people in Lincoln County to encounter Jesus and have their lives changed.”

Chantel Elliott,  a real estate agent who attends New Life, said she is “especially excited for our youth students to enjoy this new building because it provides ample indoor and outdoor space for youth activities.”