Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Historic church gets saved on Seigle Ave.

It looks as if the Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church sanctuary won't be demolished. Neighbors, church members and other interested parties found a local builder-developer who has contracted to buy the old church property. Monday night the Charlotte City Council granted a 90-day delay in the city's demolition order.

As I wrote in my Jan. 28 op-ed, "Once-loved sanctuary faces the end," the church may not be an architectural gem, but it and its congregation played a notable role in ongoing efforts here to create more racially integrated congregations. It was, I wrote, "a small congregation, racially integrated for more than 40 years. For decades that 1950 sanctuary was home to a group of African-American and white Christians puzzling their way through barriers of race, income, gender, class and other inequities – a journey so difficult that many other people and groups in Charlotte have not really begun it."

The congregation split over a variety of issues, with many long-time former members of both races joining Caldwell Memorial Presbyterian Church. The remaining Seigle members moved up the street to another building five years ago and put the old property on the market. But the real estate slowdown, the three buildings' bad condition and the lack of parking made it a difficult sale. The city's new building code for non-residential property, when applied to the church property, resulted in a demolition order. In January the City Council granted a 30-day demolition delay, after the church's real estate agent said he thought he had found a buyer.

Monday night, the buyer himself – Brandon Brown of Green City Development – told the City Council he would close on the property in about a week and asked for 150 days' delay in the demolition order so he could tear down the oldest building and start repairing the sanctuary and fellowship hall. He's also asking to buy 2 city-owned acres behind the church to use for more parking; those negotiations will be more complex and his purchase of the church isn't contingent upon that separate land purchase.

Brown said he'd like to turn the church sanctuary into a restaurant (he didn't use the example of Bonterra in Dilworth, but I will) and the fellowship hall into a coffee shop or office. The City Council gave him a 90-day extension of the demolition. Brown was good with that.

The city's nonresidential building code is well-intentioned but it's having the effect of threatening historic landmark buildings, as I wrote in November's "City May Seek Landmark Demolition." (The Seigle Avenue church building wasn't a landmark.)

Observer file photo below showing the front of the sanctuary was taken in 1993.


Anonymous said...

Good get by Green City, imo. I dont know about Bonterra but the old Fat City Deli certainly comes to mind when neighborhood was still dealing with high crime but a great location just outside downtown and full of relatively cheap old bungalow homes.