CLEVELAND - The Fifth Christian Science Church was built in 1926, but is now part crumbling 90-year-old masonry work and part solid stone artistry. It was used by its congregation until 1989 when lack of parking and other reasons forced them to the suburbs.
Along with their migration to the suburbs also went a Rini-Rego grocery store, which was sold to Giant Eagle. It was a cornerstone of foot traffic at West 117th Street and Clifton Avenue's economy.
The developers, who are now working on part of the block, have their eyes set on a retail and grocery business project called the "Shops at Clifton." The city of Cleveland owns the last one quarter of the block at the northwest corner following a gift by Giant Eagle in 2002.
Ward 16's councilman Jay Westbrook has had to contend with the church's neighborhood nuisance problems while also trying to address concerns of losing a once picturesque Cleveland historical landmark.
"We had two developers in the past 10 years try to bring this church into restoration and redevelopment. Both of those efforts failed and the city continues to promote viewings of the building, viewing of the architectural studies that have been done," Westbrook said. "It's been a very difficult task, partly because of the economy, but also partly because of the challenges that go with it. There's no parking. It's a stand-alone property in the midst of a retail center and the two don't fully work together."
Westbrook said the plan now is to try to spare some of the building's architecture by allowing developers to keep the main stone entrance with the majority of the building to be razed.
Phil Pamphilis owns the neighboring Papa Nick's restaurant. He's hoping for a new view for his customers of a retail revitalization and grocery store across the street.
"We need to grab a new customer base. We need to get more people coming back in the neighborhood again and I think a nice anchor store, if they do it right, will definitely really save the day over here," Pamphilis said. "When you look at the back side, it is an eyesore, no doubt. But, if you look at the front from Lake and West 117 th, there is some beauty there and that's what they're trying to preserve. So I say go for it guys, save as much as you can and let's get this thing going."
There has to be a few hoops to jump through for Westbrook to destroy the old building, but he's hoping the history of homeless and gang intruder problems, as well as safety concerns will convince any landmark boards to approve a preservation plan acceptable to all.
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