The city’s oldest African-American church is poised to become a hotel as part of a larger, $30 million project that could add more than 200 rooms to downtown’s lodging inventory.
As reported in IBJ’s April 4 issue, leaders of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 414 W. Vermont St. on downtown’s west side have reached an agreement with local hotelier Bharat Patel’s Sun Development & Management Corp. to sell the property.
The church was built in 1869 and has served the black community at its current location for nearly 150 years. But dwindling membership and an aging building requiring costly repairs are forcing the congregation to sell the historic property near the Central Canal.
The Metropolitan Development Commissioner's hearing examiner is set April 28 to hear Sun's rezoning petition for the site. Also, the design from American Structurepoint Inc. will need approval from the city's Regional Center Hearing Examiner.
Patel has filed with the city to rezone the Bethel property and needs Regional Center approval for the design. Patel plans to save the bell tower and some of the church’s façade as part of the hotel design.
Sun’s plans for the Bethel site call for two hotels—one a redevelopment of the historic church building and the other to be built next to it on a lot fronting West Street. The second hotel would include three levels of parking and roughly 10,000 square feet of retail space.
It’s yet to be determined what flags the hotels will fly. Patel said one will be a full-service boutique hotel and the other will be select service, a hotel class between full and limited service.
Bethel’s 150 members decided to seek offers on the property after learning it would take $2 million to repair the church, said Rev. Louis Parham.
“We are a congregation that does not have that,” Parham told IBJ. “We thought we might be able to raise the money, but that did not pan out.”