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Thread: Old churches = white elephants

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Old churches = white elephants

    Lemme know as soon as someone figures out what the H to do with an old vacant church (which existed as a conditional use in single family residential zone) will ya?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    housing!

    Someone in town is converting an old church in a residential area into a house. It's not a big, catholic church, but a small'ish gothic design chruch that has caught fire twice and has heavy water damage....All I can tell them is good luck and how deep are your pockets?

    Another church has been converted into office and loft space. Again, not a big church.

  3. #3
    maudit anglais
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    My first thought would be to convert to multi-residential, but it from your bare-bones description it sounds like that might not be acceptable to either you or surrounding residents. Is the structure worth preserving?

  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    Is the structure worth preserving?
    If not, and has a large lot or multiple lots, go single family development.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    Lemme know as soon as someone figures out what the H to do with an old vacant church (which existed as a conditional use in single family residential zone) will ya?
    How big is the church?

    In the neighborhood I grew up in, as racial and socioeconomic transition took place, the large Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist church structures were sold to up-and-coming AME and independent congregations.

    I've got plenty of examples of adaptive church reuse for commercial areas; a nightclub in Denver (called "The Church", appropriately enough), the headquarters for Righteous Babe records in Buffalo, conversion to condos in other cities; they're out there.

    A condominium may be a compatible use in a residential area, but it would involve spot zoning for a higher density use, assuming it's a single family area you're talking about.

    Worst case scenario for worrisome planners to poinder: a developer tries to sneak in a high density residential development into a lower density neighborhood, under the disguise as a church housing a congregation that will mysteriously disband after the building is completed.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I've seen condos, single family homes (depending on the size), law offices, art galleries, community centers, even a small ice cream factory.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    I've seen condos, single family homes (depending on the size), law offices, art galleries, community centers, even a small ice cream factory.
    Make it a place for local classes (basket weaving/needle point/art/ping pong) and the like.......I find it VERY difficult to believe that another church....or twelve aren't waiting in the wings to jump in there and start services.......what's up with that....? Maybe a basketball/tennis/handball/squash/raquetball court could be added in the Church yard, parking removed for picnic tables and trees planted with a tot-lot..... Or it could be a community mediation site/facility designated as a place to resolve community disputes and foster peace amongst the people......
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    There's a gigantic church in San Marcos, TX that is being converted into a mixed use development. I think they are turning the bottom portion into a parking garage and doing some loft-style apartments above. I believe they are using the mammoth parking lot to do some town homes, neighborhood retail and a little park. Keep in mind that this is less than three blocks from the university, so there is little objection from the neighbors. I'm just remembering bits & pieces of this from a conversation I had with the Planning Director there several months ago and its status may have changed.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
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    We have a nice brick church that will likely be demolished and sold with the parking lot as single family residential development lots. The amazing thing is that it is the congregation itself that is making this decision. They recently built a big new structure just outside of town.

    It is kind of a shame to lose the old building, but the market seems to be powerful enough to bury tradition in this country.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    My Masonic lodge meets in an old church. "White Elephant" doesn't begin to describe it, but the village's answer to that building was to zone it to office, which was the only designation that allowed groups like ours. It is surrounded by single family residential.

    Someone mentioned night clubs. That reminded me of Clutch Cargos, and old huge church in Pontiac. It is now a four level club.
    What do you mean I can't plan? My SimCity has 390,269 people with a 99% happiness rating (1/23/2017)!

  11. #11
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I have seen one that was turned into 4 high-end apartments. Each apartment had more than 10’ ceiling heights, great woodwork, and some of the original stain glass windows. They did take several sections out and left parts much like old Victorian transoms. The upper two apartments each had a loft bedroom, each with half of the bell tower. They dug up the parking lot, put in garage and storage stalls, and still had more than enough room for an impressive yard.

    Other that I have heard of several others were converted into apartments, condos, offices, and one became a bank.

    Quote Originally posted by Coragus
    (snip) That reminded me of Clutch Cargos, and old huge church in Pontiac. It is now a four level club.
    I love that place!
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    We have at least 2 in our town that became private schools (not affiliated with a church).

  13. #13

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    As an intern one of the first projects I worked on in planning was a church study for a suburb of Chicago. The suburb was burned when an old-line congregation located in the suburb's downtown decided to move and sell its building to a charismatic black church. Despite this community's reputation for tolerance and harmony, there was outcry when this congregation moved in. Under pressure, the suburb bought back the church from the black congregation, but the town took a negative publicity hit. The suburb decided to be proactive.

    My job was to identify possible reuses if a church was to leave its building. My conclusions were similar to what's posted here -- those that were in commercial areas could become commercial uses. The monumental churches in the downtown area really could not be used for anything but a church, but could be torn down for commercial use. Neighborhood churches could become either converted residential, torn down for new residential, or new church locations.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    Lemme know as soon as someone figures out what the H to do with an old vacant church (which existed as a conditional use in single family residential zone) will ya?
    How are you set for municipal recreational uses? Pull out the pews and you would have a wonderful location for a senior center, high school dances, etc. That is if the community wanted to acquire it.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Suggestions - live theatres have used them, some commercial uses like them (art galleries)

    As some people have said, housing is another option. I know of two converted to single family dwellings.

    I have seen on converted to a personal meeting space for a family. Some are purcahsed by caterers and rentable for events, meetings etc.

  16. #16
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    This should answer many questions Interesting building. Located on over 10 acres. I know it's going to turn into the next plat when someone ponies up the right price. I wondered if there was some way to save the church (and no there's not a line of other churches with the $$ waiting to buy the odd looking building - hence, the white elephant label).
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    maudit anglais
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    Maybe there's a superhero out there somewhere looking for a new secret headquarters?

  18. #18
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    Maybe there's a superhero out there somewhere looking for a new secret headquarters?
    LOL!! yeah, that's about it.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    That's such a unique building, I'm sure someone would want to reuse it. This is more than a church its a campus. Except for the lack of windows, it might be the centerpiece of a good little campus/office park for a company or two, with the addition of another building of (somewhat) similar design. Are any small local colleges looking to expand?

  20. #20
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    OH......MY......GOD!!! That thing is empty.

    For everyone not in the know, this thing is adjacent to the I-94 expressway.

    I see that thing everytime we drive to eastern Michigan to visit family.

    It's always amazed me, but I didn't realize it was empty.

    When it does go residential redevelopment, then the building will definitely go bye-bye. It had to have been the product of single large ego. No church building committee would have approved something like that.

    BTW....do you know what the asking price is?

    It would have looked like this instead:
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

  21. #21
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    OH......MY......GOD!!! That thing is empty.
    In truth, it isn't - yet (I realize I referred to it in the past tense - but was just trying to think of a creative solution ahead of time for when it actually does happen). It was built in the 60's, the diocese simply can't afford it anymore and I understand it soon will be on the block.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  22. #22
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    That is one unique building and I would hate to see it go. Could the Men in Black use a new HQ? Or maybe Lex Luthor? How about a mausoleum? You already have the beautiful grounds. That structure does have a funereal look to it. What kind of church (denomination) was it?

  23. #23
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    that is a completly unique church. I bet it would make a really cool office for an off-the-wall architect

  24. #24

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    I can't believe it! That church building sticks out like a sore thumb every time I make the trip to visit my parents in Saginaw!

    Can you get rid of it, Maister?

  25. #25
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    That is one unique building and I would hate to see it go. Could the Men in Black use a new HQ? Or maybe Lex Luthor? How about a mausoleum? You already have the beautiful grounds. That structure does have a funereal look to it. What kind of church (denomination) was it?
    So far theyve had only had one offer and apparently the buyer was only willing to pay with Alpha Centaurian credits
    Oh and I forgot to mention the reason theres a funereal look to the place is because the ground you see in front actually accommodates a number of clergy/parishioner's graves!
    Its an Episcopal church and the building design is supposed to represent/resemble the crown of Christ. The only thing more remarkable and unusual than the exterior of the building is the interior. Think Frank Lloyd Wright Chicago Unitarian Church for comparative purposes.....
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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