On the auction block, vacant Lansing high school ‘good opportunity’ for a buyer

The vacant Illiana Christian High School in Lansing is scheduled to go up for auction Nov. 14. (Rick Levin & Associates photo)
The vacant Illiana Christian High School in Lansing is scheduled to go up for auction Nov. 14. (Rick Levin & Associates photo)

Set back from busy Torrence Avenue in Lansing, a vacant former Christian high school presents a “good opportunity” for a buyer with a clever idea for reusing an “unusual asset,” says the head of an auction firm.

Rick Levin, president of Chicago-based auction firm Rick Levin & Associates, said his firm, through a Nov. 14 auction, is hoping to find a buyer for Illiana Christian High School, which relocated to northwest Indiana and has so far been unsuccessful in selling the privately owned property.

Sitting on 9½-acres, the property, northwest of Torrence and Ridge Road, includes two gymnasiums, an auditorium, tennis courts, ballfields and parking for more than 200 cars. The original building dates to 1948, with additions built in 1968 and 1976, Levin said.

More than a year ago, Illiana had sought $4.5 million, while the suggested opening bid for the auction is $450,000.


“I think it’s going to be a good opportunity for someone,” Levin said.

The site is zoned residential and is surrounded by homes, but abuts, to the east, commercial zoning along the busy Torrence Avenue. The proximity to Torrence as well as Interstates 80 and 94 about a mile to the north are advantages, he said.

Because it’s not a home, vacant retail space or empty warehouse, putting a dollar value on the property isn’t easy, Levin said. To rebuild, he said, would cost in the neighborhood of $10 million.

“At the end of the day, the value of something is what somebody is willing to pay for it,” Levin said.

His firm, he said, is “in the business of often selling hard-to-value properties,” such as the sale of Chicago’s nearly 3 million-square-foot Old Main Post Office, which went to auction and is now attracting tenants such as Ferrara Candy, Uber and Walgreens.

Illiana Christian had called Lansing home home for about seven decades before relocating to Hanover Township, near St. John, Ind., where a new, more modern and roomy building was constructed and opened to students in the summer of 2018. Illiana is affiliated with area schools including Calvin Christian in South Holland and Lansing Christian in Lansing.

In approving the move in 2014, school officials said the idea of relocating had been discussed for about 15 years, with a variety of factors at work, including the fact that Illiana was attracting more students from Indiana.

Principal Peter Boonstra said Friday that the Lansing campus has been on the market a few years, and that while there have been interested buyers, issues such as financing difficulties on the part of would-be buyers prevented a deal from being sealed.

He said school officials had discussed the idea of an auction failing a sale through a commercial real estate broker.

“We are happy to move on,” Boonstra said. “We’ve taken good care of the place.”

Because it was built as a school and would, ideally, be a perfect spot if another school were to buy it, Boonstra said, “that’s been the big challenge” in finding a buyer.

He said that possible new uses that had been tossed around included converting the space into a nursing home.

Being adjacent to homes, the Lansing property could be converted for residential use, but what ultimately might be built there is up to what officials and residents in the village will permit, Levin said.

“I don’t know what the highest and best use is,” he said.

Levin said the owners are “motivated” sellers and “not emotionally attached” to the property. Boonstra said Illiana would like to be able to shed the costs of keeping up the property.

On-site inspections will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 23 and 29, and Nov. 5, according to Levin & Associates. More information is available at 312-440-2000 or ricklevin.com.