Former church has new life

Missionary Church takes vacant Main St. building.

The former First Church of Christ Scientist built in 1958 sat empty for a few years, as its owners and later city planners contemplated its future.

Neighbors a couple of years ago objected to two attempts by the original owners to rezone the 1590 W. Main St. property first from office residential to local retail and then to office commercial.

They said they feared commercial and retail businesses that dominate the south side West Main Street across from the church would begin creeping into the area north of Main Street now home to the Westbrook residential subdivision.

The city planning commission agreed, taking negative positions on both rezoning requests.

As the search for a new owner resumed, an organization with offices on the other side of town was looking for more space for its growing membership and work.

The East Central Region Missionary Church found what it was looking for in the vacant church building, said Jeff Kephart, regional director of East Central Region Missionary Church, which encompasses Ohio with 33 churches.

What was needed was more space and accessibility from both a geographic and a human perspective. “We are passionate about what we do and serving God,” Kephart said.

The building underwent major work with an updated HVAC system, significant electrical work and new landscaping. Church volunteers helped with a lot of the work, Kephart said. The building features offices, a reception area, kitchenette and conference rooms that can be used for training and other activities by the church and community organizations.

“We prefer to think God was thinking of us, arranged this for us,” Kephart said.

Jim Dando, city economic development director, said the building’s use by the Missionary Church offices is the “exact kind of use anticipated by the office zoning.”

He said some prospective buyers wanted the zoning changed to business so they could use it for a store or restaurant. “But those types of commercial uses would have generated more activity than would fit well at that particular spot,” Dando said.

“Although the Trojan Village Shopping Center has many different commercial uses, the north side is mostly residential,” he added. “Like the church before it, the new office use is a good transition from the quieter Westbrook neighborhood to the busier shopping area.”

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