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TMA in talks to buy church

Deal for building next door could help expand art school


The Toledo Museum of Art is considering buying Glenwood Lutheran Church, 1716 Glenwood Ave. The original structure was erected in 1901, though there have been updates to the building since then.

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The Toledo Museum of Art is in discussions to acquire Glenwood Evangelical Lutheran Church next door on Monroe Street, possibly for an expansion of the Toledo School for the Arts, officials of all three institutions confirmed Tuesday.

Though described as in the early phases, talks focus on financial problems facing the congregation of the 113-year-old church, the goal of Toledo School for the Arts to open an elementary school, and the art museum’s desire to consolidate its campus.

Mira Samson, president of the Glenwood Church Council, said the church has been in discussions about selling its property to the museum for about a year. Recently, the church invited the museum to make an offer.

“We are in conversation, that’s all. There have been no bids made,” Mrs. Samson said. “I think their aim is to build an arts school. The property would be for expanding the museum in some way. They would have that whole section.”

The church was founded at Glenwood Avenue and Monroe Street in 1901. The present two buildings, an educational facility and the sanctuary, were constructed in the 1950s and ’60s. The church was built on the foundation of the previous sanctuary.

According to an article in The Blade, the new sanctuary was dedicated 50 years ago, on April 12, 1964. The church eschewed “a popular architectural trend of functionalism and simplicity” and went with a traditional Gothic design with a stone facade. Inside are carved walnut paneling and furnishings, and completing the outside is a stone tower. The stained-glass windows were made in Europe and depict symbols of the church year.

Museum Director Brian Kennedy confirmed the church has invited the museum to make an offer for the property. He said speculation about what the museum would do with it is inappropriate until the church makes a decision.

“The future plans for the area don’t arise if they’re not interested in selling the church,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We want to respect the right of the congregation to make a decision.”

He said the museum’s vision for 2020 is to further integrate its 36-acre campus and focus on art education.

“There is a thought that we would expand on the other side [from the University of Toledo’s Center for the Visual Arts]. The Glenwood Church would have to decide whether they want to sell and there have been discussions with the Toledo School for the Arts,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Kelly Garrow, museum director of communications, said it would be “way premature” to comment on whether demolition and new construction are in the future of the church site.

She said the museum this year bought a strip of land from Glenwood Church to gain full possession of the section of West Grove Place that borders the museum’s rear parking lot.

Martin Porter, director of the arts school, said the charter school has had the stated goal of adding an elementary level for about six years. The school at 333 14th St. offers grades 6-12 and is at capacity with about 672 students.

“Serendipitously, if the church were to sell that property to the museum, the opportunity for us to begin something there with the museum resources right at hand for elementary students that could also be a feeder for our program would be absolutely fantastic,” Mr. Porter said. “There are a whole lot of challenges before I think it’s a reality.”

He would not commit to any demolition plans but said the board would rather avoid a replay of taking over an aging structure, as it did with its present building.

The museum and church are in the Old West End Historic District. The historic district commission would have to approve a building demolition, but based on its record it is “highly unlikely” to approve razing a historic building in good repair, said Molly Maguire, principal planner with the Toledo Plan Commission and secretary to the historic district commission. An applicant may appeal a decision from the commission to the plan commission.

She said the church is considered historic for several reasons, including that it is older than 50 years, and it predated creation of the historic district in 1980.

Mrs. Samson said the congregation has to decide whether to stay together, and if so, whether to try to remain at its present location.

“It’s no secret that our membership rolls are down, and that is a grand old building that needs maintenance, and so this comes at a time that we certainly need to entertain the thought of selling,” she said.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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