A Heights Retail Resurrection

A HEIGHTS RETAIL RESURRECTION The Leader is reporting that the Baptist Temple Church on Rutland and 20th St. in the Heights has sold 2 of its oldest buildings to Braun Enterprises, which says it will tear them down and replace them with less sacred spaces — that is, retail or a restaurant. If the almighty dollar has triumphed, there’s still a silver lining — or so Charlotte Aguilar suggests, reporting that the sale of the buildings — the church’s original sanctuary, built in 1912, and a larger one built in 1940 — will fund a $3 million renovation to its remaining 65,000-sq.-ft. T.C. Jester Building on 20th; a new 300-seat sanctuary will be added and classrooms and offices updated. [The Leader] Photo: Charlotte Aguilar via The Leader

31 Comment

  • That’s a pretty sanctuary they’re tearing down. Too bad. Were it not for the existence of Lambert Hall, I would think it would make a great performance space. But two former churches-turned-performance halls within a few blocks of each other is probably overkill.

  • Ugh, who wants a larger Baptist Church, what so they can rant about gays and worrying about everyone’s soul but their own. It’s lamented that more old buildings in The Heights aren’t repurposed, instead they’re torn down for more mediocre structures for affluent housing. Who thinks this new building will last 100 years, they’ll be lucky if it makes it 25. It never ceases to amaze me how they tear down everything that makes these neighborhoods desirable in the first place, I would bet thrilled if the church closed, however I’d like to see the building repurposed for something cool and befitting the historical unique character of The Heights

  • who says liberals aren’t open minded? :)

  • Always strange how the current generation hates what churches are about but appreciates their architecture. I guess because the current relativist mindset can produce no architecture of similar beauty.

  • Seriously? You’re going to tear down the old stone temple to build retail?

    Not lease or buy/revamp the horrid strip center across the street?

    Not replace the decrepit “Dorsey’s Beauty Academy” building one block away?

    Not build on the empty lots behind Heights Asian Cafe or next to Alabama Furniture?

    Not knock down the “Fire and Insurance Sale” building on Yale & 19th?

    Not utterly annihilate the disgustingly slummy defunct dry-cleaners and ..office (?) on Yale & 23rd?

    No, none of those? Going to kill the pretty, century-old stone building?


  • @ shannon – That comment was just ugly. And no, I’m not Baptist; it’s just that I find blind intolerance unacceptable – particularly when it’s based on stereotypes.

  • When we moved to the are 21 years ago, they still had someone playing the chimes; we’d hear old hymns from our childhood. I’d hoped it might end up with a fate like that of the church in the 6th Ward that an architectural firm converted to their office, retaining much of the character and structure. thanks Ian V for the contrast between crap and classic.

  • need a better example of “no imagination”? These would be great retail and restaurant spaces and woudl preserve the buildings! Aren’t these protected by the Heights Historic District designation? What a limited perspective from the developers when Mark’s on Westheimer is a good example of such a transformation. Pittsburgh is an incredible example of what can be done with these structures when the neighborhood empties of that congregation. One is the city”s best brew pubs!

  • Darby Mom’s referring to 1919 Decatur. English and Associates for the win! http://www.english-architects.com/architecture-projects/1919-decatur-adaptive-reuse

  • ” I find blind intolerance unacceptable – particularly when it’s based on stereotypes….” You mean like the Baptists and Catholics??? Right on Shannon. Your comment was 100% correct.

  • I’d like to see it turned into a distillery. Call it: Holy Spirits.

    Somebody should invest in that idea because I think that it would be cool. Of course, whether they could comply with codes or deed restrictions or turn a profit should be irrelevant. That’s my internet opinion, so there!

  • It is an odd set up. Basically there is a church next to a church next to a church on one lot. Braun bought two of the smaller churches. If they changed course and repurposed one or both buildings, you would have a bit of an odd situation of having a repurposed church next to a real church. And given that the community is still working on raising funds to turn the old Lutheran church into a community center, I do not see much hope that this building can be saved.

  • Agree with Shannon-these buildings are perfect candidates for adaptive reuse. Why not repurpose them as retail or restaurants (or as a brewery, distillery or even offices)? Properly executed, the spaces would immediately offer competitive advantages because of their history/uniqueness (think Oxheart, Blacksmith Coffee, Anvil etc). There are challenges associated with renovating old structures, but the end result is more than worth the risk. It looks like the Heights West Historic District boundary is 17th street or so.
    Jason, thanks for the link!

  • @mollusk-I stand by my comment about Baptists, surly you can appreciate the irony of critizing my supposed intolerance in defense of people who are the most intolerant. You think Bapists are tolerant?, seriously? Try asking a gay person if they feel Baptists are tolerant, please don’t defend this group to me, frankly it’s insulting to my intelligence.

  • TheNiche wins.

  • Since when is a run down building with broken and boarded up windows something that ” makes these neighborhoods desirable in the first place”? How about the money raised for the church coffers to restore the other half? I don’t know anything, but doesn’t seem so bad to me.

  • The site that they purchased has no parking on it, in order to re-use it, they would have to create parking, thus have to take down the majority of the improvements. Plus, I bet it is covered with asbestos and requires complete gut and redevelopment, which would be extremely costly. In order to have restaurants, coffee bars, etc., the city requires parking, and lots of it. I would venture to say there is almost no practical way to utilize the buildings. Why aren’t people thrilled that there will be new places to shop, eat, etc. in the neighborhood?

  • Just another example of the reality of “historic preservation” in this city.

  • Jason: So the city will see to it that this church is blown up due to it’s regulations on what can be done with a structure (“you need x parking because we say so”, etc.). What otherwise might be a cool repurpose is made impractical.
    I’m sure the people pissed about a cool structure such as this going away will blame the city right? Nope, they’ll blame Braun.

  • (eyeroll) I really need to learn to resist the impulse to feed the trolls.

    As my last comment on the subject: Give it some thought (even though that takes effort and may cause a headache): What logical basis supports the claim that every single member of (name that group) is/has (name that failing/flaw/talent/other characteristic)?
    I personally know far more Baptists who couldn’t care less about the details of someone else’s love life than are willing to consign their gay neighbors to perdition (perhaps they are mindful of the invitation to the sinless to cast the first stone). Some are even good dancers.

    I may look like a middle aged white guy, but I grew up as an ethnic Catholic with one of my parents coming from a different faith and a small Southern town, and attended college in the Ozarks. I have a bit of experience on this, so yeah, I stand by my rejection of the original ugly, willfully ignorant comment, and add my scorn for the doubling down by the original poster and the piling on by another.

  • Just to be clear, I’m not blaming Braun for making what they have deemed to be a profitable business decision – I am merely expressing disappointment that one of many other more aesthetically-needy local candidate sites was not chosen for redevelopment.

  • Ian: Sorry if I came off defensive. I just know of a few other buildings that are also going to be knocked down too that I *love*. They could easily be repurposed if the city wasn’t so gung-hoe on seeing them go away. This church would (okay, “could”) have been bought by someone that wanted to repurpose it but with the current rules it’s too hard to do so.
    Anyway.. Regarding the other sites: If they bought this site vs. the rest I’m sure there was the reason. The other people wouldn’t sell? They wanted too much? There were some other issues with those sites (restricted? setbacks? ?)

  • Perhaps Braun chose the Baptist Temple site because it was actually on the market with a motivated seller. Lots of owners of potential redevelopment sites have no interest in selling, for a variety of reasons, and even with offers that are above market.

  • I have heard rumors that this congregation has gotten smaller in recent years because their young pastor is perceived by some old-timers to be too liberal. I have attended a service there (a friend of my family is a member there) and indeed, I found the sermon to be thought-provoking and decidedly unorthodox, enough so that it visibly bothered some of the more fundamentalist members of my family. Perhaps the rumors aren’t true, if they have another campus and plan to expand it, but still, it’s a good idea to actually investigate things a bit before painting with such a wide brush, Shannon….@Mike, old churches are often gorgeous. Why are so many newer churches so boring? They’re more like malls than places of worship.

  • For those that havent been in the buildings, it would take millions to make it ADA compliant. You know those intollarent handicapped people wont like all of the stairs and the regular Joes wont like the 5 foot tall doorways. Oh and there is about a foot of bird, roach, mouse and human feces on the basement floor. The church is selling this site to raise money to revamp the existing church (with lots and lots of rainbows).

  • Most Baptists’ attitudes towards homosexuality is “love the sinner, hate the sin,” which is about as tolerant as you can be while keeping your principles. I once knew a gay guy who converted to Southern Baptism, although it meant accepting a celibate lifestyle.

    @Anse, there’s always some who are “high church” and some who are “low church.” The new Catholic cathedral and the St. Mark’s Episcopal church on Sage Rd. might seem more gorgeous to you, although admittedly they’re not executed as well as traditional churches were a hundred years ago, mostly due to astronomical material costs and lost carving skills.

  • As a former Southern Baptist, the whole “hate the sin, not the sinner” thing is something I heard often. It is absurdly preposterous. Sexuality is an identity that goes beyond the sexual act; this is true of heterosexuals as much as it is of homosexuals. But this is a matter of religious dogma and Biblical interpretation…..more preposterous is the zany idea that “moral relativism” is related in any way to architecture or the appreciation of it. Must we know the architect’s views on religion to understand his/her work? Personally, I know of few people whose morality is more relative than the Biblical fundamentalist. The Bible is a magic hat. You can pull anything you want out of it and people have done that for 2,000 years.

  • I don’t understand the statement “sexuality is an identity.” If you want to speak about “magic hats,” how about the term “identity”?

    Views on homosexuality aren’t restricted to Biblical interpretation, since many religions that don’t have the Bible have placed restrictions on homosexuality. Even non-religious thinkers like Plato wanted to restrict homosexuality. Venting anger at the Bible doesn’t erase the question.

    Moral relativism is related to architecture. Much of postmodern architectural theory emphasises asymmetry and other postmodern features as the appropriate building style of a society that is not “imperialistic” and has no “normative” beliefs. You cannot understand why contemporary Berlin architecture is different from, say, a medieval cathedral, without some discussion of relativism. But I also think individual architects can buck the trend – Philip Johnson, my favorite architect, was somewhat of a relativist (and incidentally homosexual), and many of his designs expressed almost a “religious” sense of conviction and unity of purpose.

  • ALL morality is relative. All morality requires context, and we justify much of our own behavior with semantic tricks that serve our individual purposes. Being angry at the Bible makes as much sense as being angry at a pile of stones. I’m merely pointing out that dogma evolves with the times, to suit the changing cultural zeitgeist, and to meet the needs and wants of those who wish to believe they live by dogma while pursuing their own brand of happiness. Sexuality is a great example of this. I defer to your knowledge of architecture and the underlying bases for postmodern design.

  • You are welcome to believe that all morality is relative. I personally do not, but I tolerate your view. :) But I think that many religious principles (or “dogma”), especially regarding sexuality, evolve less dramatically than you think. Paul scorning the sexual behavior of the Corinthians, or Augustine frustrated by temptation in Milan, can sound very contemporary to today’s ears.

  • that site has been on the market for quite a few years…since 2206 i believe…and has always been priced way above market because the church needed to get a very specific number out of it. they decided to sell because the congregation, which has been slowly aging, was dwindling to very small numbers. Because the leaders in that church did not want to relocate it’s elderly members, this was the choice they made. I have been in the oldest building that sold, and it is NOT salvagable. It is crumpling from the inside….rotting. it is a beautiful old church, but this was no snap decision to sell. I hope they got the money for it they were after, they certainly waited out the market for it!