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Lakewood church preserved after nearly becoming a fast food drive-thru

Project developer calls it "labor of love"
Posted at 3:33 PM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 18:26:18-05

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — One Lakewood developer is calling the former Trinity Lutheran Church on Detroit Avenue a “labor of love.”

“I would say in the next couple of years you’re going to see this entire property come back to life,” Bryce Sylvester said.

After it was announced that the structure would be torn down and replaced with a fast food chain, longtime Lakewood residents stepped in to save the structure.

“There’s Wendy’s and McDonald’s everywhere. There’s one right across the street.”

If the walls of the sanctuary there could talk, they would tell the story of nearly a century’s worth of faith and fellowship.

“It’s a huge part of the fabric of our city in Lakewood,” Sylvester said.

Construction on the building was completed in 1922 and Trinity Lutheran Church held its final service there in 2018.

Frank Scalish owns a Lakewood construction business and said the structure was too good to pass up.

“So driving past here a million times when it went up for sale, it sort of peaked my interests,” Scalish said.

The city of Lakewood bought the property in late 2018 and has since been sorting through requests from business owners like Scalish, hoping to preserve the space.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity for our city,” Sylvester said, “You’ve got a small business owner that is going to reinvest in a very important property.”

Scalish plans to move his business operations into the former church’s sanctuary and use the building’s back office space for residential apartments.

While he’s keeping his eye on the prize, Scalish said the building is a work in progress.

“This is a labor of love, as you can understand,” Scalish said, “And there’s a reason why it didn’t sell in the first place. It’s a lot of work.”

Bryce Sylvester with the City of Lakewood Planning and Development office said because the building will now generate tax revenue, the community will benefit financially from the project.

“Our schools benefit directly from that as they take a majority of the property taxes,” Sylvester said, “So in addition to getting a really high-quality project, we’re also going to be bringing economic impact to the city.

The City of Lakewood is still finalizing its development agreement with Scalish Construction. Renovations and construction on the project are expected to begin by next summer.