- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Time is running out for preservationists who want to save a brick chapel in Des Moines that once was home to one of the oldest black congregations in Iowa.

The Burns United Methodist Church building has been empty since 2011, when the congregation moved to another building, the Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1Tjam9C ) reported.

Some residents of the River Bend neighborhood want the 86-year-old chapel saved, but they lack the estimated $350,000 needed to move it.

Hubbell Realty Co. plans to buy the property to build an apartment complex. The company and church officials wants the site cleared by June 1, either by demolishing the church or letting the neighbors move it.

“Hubbell is the one buying the property and they have been zero help at all,” said Aaron Barnum, a River Bend resident serving as project manager for the proposed move. “They want to start just soon as all the permits and everything get taken care of. They really have no interest in giving us time to do it.”

But Hubbell CEO Rick Tollakson said the company has already delayed closing on the property’s purchase to give the neighborhood group time to work on its proposal. Hubbell is offering the River Bend group $10,000 for the move.

Tollakson said that the decision to demolish the church or move it is between the neighborhood group and the church.

“We don’t have anything to do with their process,” he said.

Church officials said they don’t want the preservation advocates to delay or derail the sale. The Rev. Angela Lewis said the money would be a boon to the church’s outreach mission. The sale amount hasn’t been disclosed.

“Those funds would definitely help us, as we are a small congregation,” she said.

Lewis said she doesn’t care if the neighborhood group moves the church or not.

“If they can do it, amen,” Lewis said. “If they can’t, amen.”

In 1977, the Burns church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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