- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A century-old church that has served as a gateway to a small community just east of Indianapolis is facing the wrecking ball again.

Leaders of the St. John United Church of Christ have an agreement to sell the Cumberland property to Pittsburgh-based grocer Giant Eagle for a convenience store and gas station.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports (https://bit.ly/16zRWxb ) the plan has sparked a “Save German Church” Facebook page.

“It’s sort of a gateway property to the small town of Cumberland,” said Mark Dollase, vice president of preservation services for nonprofit Indiana Landmarks. “It’s kind of their symbol of their community, if you will.”

Cumberland Town Manager Andrew Klinger says the Giant Eagle plan doesn’t jibe with the town’s comprehensive plan. He says the town is exploring whether it can purchase the land itself.

“We see greater potential uses that would create a sense of place and generate more tax revenue than another gas station,” Klinger said in a statement. “We fully support the church’s decision to move, and we’re not opposed to Giant Eagle, but we’d like to have them build their facility on a more appropriate site. This is the wrong location.”

The town has considered a craft brewery, business incubator or event center as better fits for the location, Klinger said.

The Rev. Jimmy Watson said the church’s membership has fallen and that the building is in need of repair.

“We simply need a renovation that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and we literally have 40 people in church,” Watson said. “The people who are complaining about it just drive by, they don’t attend here.”

A rezoning hearing is scheduled Thursday before the Metropolitan Development Commission’s hearing examiner.

An agreement to sell the church in 2010 would have seen the site become a CVS pharmacy, but Indianapolis protected the building by giving it landmark status. The church sued, and a 2011 settlement gave Indiana Landmarks six months to find a buyer who would save the building.

A buyer wasn’t found, and Indianapolis removed the building’s landmark status as part of the settlement’s terms.

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Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, https://www.ibj.com


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