The Metropolitan Development Commission has approved an emergency motion to protect a 1914 church at the northeast corner of Washington Street and German Church Road. The congregation of St. John United Church of Christ had been working on plans to build a new church on Carroll Road and struck a deal to sell the old one, historically known as Deutsche Evangelische-St Johannes Kirche, to a developer who planned to demolish the building. But in October the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana applied to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission seeking an emergency historic designation to save it. IHPC supported the request, and sent it along to the MDC.
There still is a risk the church could be torn down if members of the congregation are successful in a legal challenge, or if state legislators pass a bill inspired in part by the church controversy. State Sen. Pat Miller introduced SB 177 to punish IHPC and strip the group of much of its authority to regulate changes to buildings in historic districts. The bill has drawn broad criticism from historic groups and residents in historic neighborhoods, who decry the legislature’s meddling in a local issue and the potential hit it could deal to property values. Residents of such districts have to overwhelmingly approve the designations and the stringent requirements that accompany them. They also point to IHPC’s denial rate of only 1 percent over more than 30 years.