Historic namesake for German Church Road facing demolition

October 29, 2009
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Historic preservation groups are fighting to save a 1914 church at the northeast corner of Washington Street and German Church Road in Cumberland. The congregation of St. John United Church of Christ has been working on plans to build a new church on Carroll Road and struck a deal to sell the old one to a developer. The plans are rumored to include demolition to make way for a CVS store. (There's a Walgreens across the street.)

But the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana applied to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission earlier this month seeking emergency designation of the building to save it. The church, historically known as Deutsche Evangelische-St Johannes Kirche, was built at a cost of $30,000 in the Tudor Gothic Revival style and features "extraordinary" stained glass windows. The IHPC granted the request, and the Metropolitan Development Commission will take up the issue on Nov. 4.

The shrinking congregation of about 366 members can no longer to afford maintenance and renovations needed on the building, an estimated $1.3 million over the next 10 years, said board member Larry Miller. Selling the parcel would give the church an opportunity to add desperately needed child-care and other facilities to attract a younger membership base, he said. About 85 percent of the congregation is over 65. Members are upset that people with no stake in the church's future are trying to block the sale and redevelopment of the property. "We feel like we're being picked on," Miller said.

UPDATE:  The MDC opted to continue the hearing until Dec. 2 after church officials agreed to hold off on applying for demolition permits.

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  • TERRIBLE
    I am very familiar with this corner and church and it is too bad that CVS is looking at this site, yet expected since Walgreens is opposite. CVS should go further east in Cumberland and leave this site alone!
  • Tragic.
    Tragic, and complicated. This gets far afield from my area of legal practice, but there are some federal statutes that make
    it a bit more difficult to apply zoning and other standards to churches and other religious institutions. I don't know enough
    about such statutes to speculate whether they would apply, but itâ??s an angle worth considering.

    I sympathize with the church and with the challenges of dealing with a shrinking and aging congregation, but my goodness.
    How many newer congregations would love to have a building like this, but canâ??t because such craftsmanship is now so expensive?
    I'm sure it's not an easy choice. The only way the church can take advantage of its most valuable asset is by destroying
    its most priceless asset. Still, one must wonder if this isn't a shortsighted move. In ten years, this probably still
    will be an aging and shrinking congregation, but will be worshiping in a charmless quonset hut in a cornfield.
  • Another CVS?
    Unfortunately development has taken place all around this historic structure and it currently sits in a (now) poor location. The best bet would be to move it, though that is likely cost prohibitive as well. Seriously. . . .another CVS?? I'll get on my pulpit once again and preach "stop senseless development!" There may be a better use for this land. . . .but another chain CVS or Walgreens??? Come on, set some restrictions.
  • Freedom from Tyranny
    Is this a free market capitalistic country or what? The property owners in this situation or any other should be able to develop their corner of a major intersection into commercial. If the IHPC wants to preserve bldg than they should pay market value for the site. It's called creative destruction. Nothing lasts forever people.

    Oh and darn it if there's two pharmacies in the area! They'll both have to compete for business. That whole competition thing is so overrated! It's waaaaay better when the Govt gets involved!
    • PRESERVE!!
      Why is our society so bloody disposable? Beautiful architecture to be knocked down for a generic CVS you could find anywhere, USA is unconscionable considering how much this city has lost already. And as for government involvement: as soon as churches start paying taxes like every other person and business, the government is already involved.
    • ?
      Thank goodness for Ivo, we were almost carried away with having opinions! Is that allowed in capitalism? Or is a citizenry with opinions tyrannical? Ivo should run a mini-government for Pendleton Pike. I think your mindset would work well for them.
    • sheesh
      Josh, thanks for bashing my opinion by saying I limit the freedom for others to give theirs. Great comeback bud!

      In response to the pendleton-pike comment I just want to say that I'm a big fan of new urbanist ideals of development and re-use/redevelopment. I think, where appropriate, planning should set the bar and vision high. I'm also of the opinion that it's up to the citizenry to elect officials that carry out that vision if that's what is desired in a given municipality.

      What I'm NOT a fan of is a quasi-govt group arbitrarily slapping property owners with use controls and limitations prior to a sale. Just deciding that a corner with high value as commercial should be a church forever because it has been in the past is ridiculous.

      If it were my town I'd say let them sell but make sure the CVS or any other buiding conforms to newer development standards. For example, require CVS to be two stories and closer to the street.

      Oh, and Josh; that's just my opinion.
    • German Church
      Having just closed on a church for an aging congregation...there are buyers that would be willing to preserve the building and prevent it's demolition.
    • Sanc-CVS-uary
      Maybe if it's torn down, CVS will develop a new prototype that looks like a gothic revival church.
    • hopeless
      The church will be torn down for a new CVS. They might as well blow it up now.

      The MDC - which could stop this if they wanted to by refusing to rezone - will willingly cave in in the name of "development".

      There is no competition among drugstores, whoever mentioned that is retarded. They fix prices like crazy.

    • CVS-Another one?`
      Why Can't CVS just demolish their existing store on E. Washington near German Church and build a new bright gleaming store?
    • CVS another one???
      It is a crappy situation all the way around. That church has been a beautiful building for years. Every Christmas they put the candles in the bags all the way around it. But the corner has been a magnet for accidents and traffic backup. So how do you remedy this where all of us benefit???? I hate to see another landmark destroyed just so we can call it "progress". But I also understand that the church has the right to do with the property as they please. So how do we fix this??? Any ideas???
      • Historic Landmark
        PLEASE don't destroy! Why can't the city help the east side for a change? Perhaps they can purchase the beautiful church and use it for city property - ie. offices / meeting & conference space, etc. That corner is too crowded now, as it is and adding a CVS to a corner across from a Wal-Greens, a Marsh, next to a Meijer, Walmart, Sams Club, Kroger, etc. We don't need it, nor do we want it.
      • Same issue in Memphis
        This is eerily similar to what we're experiencing in Memphis - CVS overpaid a Methodist Congregation for their historic church (which has been on the National Register since 1987), across from which is a Walgreens. City Council voted in favor of CVS' PUD, and our church faces demolition.

        I know this news item was posted nearly a year ago, but if your historic church is still standing, then please fight for it.

        CVS will lie and cheat to try to get what they want.

        Our historic church will be demolished against our community's strong opposition, and in its place will be a boxy, generic, suburban-style structure surrounded by a parking lot. I hope you guys can prevent this from happening in your neighborhood.
      • My family's history
        My family helped start and make this church thoses many years ago this is a part of my family's history. My family worked hard to make and start this church it would only be right for me work hard to keep it standing. How could there be a German Church Road without the German Church still standing there?
      • more lose
        One more Butler building with a steeple on top. this is a good looking building. I can understand upkeep and a smaller Congregation. But they are trading in a Farrier for a Chevy colt.

        Just move the Building to a new location, there done. There lots of room just north, behind it.

        O that's right, congregations don't want to spend money on that M word, and with the NEW religion, you cant have anything too nice or that would be PRIDE in one self, and that's a sin, lets just dump it and buy new, We can build a New 20000 Sq ft building, with 10 3x5 windows and a covered entry, 40000 Sq ft of paving with NO trees and for good measure lets put a 7' steeple on top. just to make sure they know it's a church. god forbid someone think it's FEDEX hub...

        Time change, It just would not make a good Subway. No parking at the front door. as for CVS/Wal-greens. it's all about the money. Not the Neighborhood. It's sad.

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