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Published: Monday, 11/30/2009

Church in Uptown area asks city to vacate streets for new buildings

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
First Alliance Church, 2201 Monroe St., sought to vacate part of Washington Street
in 2000, but the request was denied over concerns about new traffic patterns. First Alliance Church, 2201 Monroe St., sought to vacate part of Washington Street in 2000, but the request was denied over concerns about new traffic patterns.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

The congregation of a historic Uptown church that burned in June is seeking approval from the city to vacate several blocks of a once-busy city street.

First Alliance Church, 2201 Monroe St., wants to take over several blocks of Washington Street, along with portions of two smaller thoroughfares, Norwood Avenue and 22nd Street.

The proposal is to be discussed tomorrow by the Toledo Plan Commission, which meets in Government Center downtown.

The church was damaged by an early morning blaze June 25. Now, church officials want to consolidate the church's campus as part of rebuilding the main sanctuary and classroom building.

The church, founded in 1887, owns all the parcels on both sides of Washington between 21st and Monroe, except for a corner parcel owned by Columbia Gas Co.

The church also owns most of the property on both sides of Norwood, except those belonging to Jessie Blanton, which also fronts Collingwood Boulevard, as well as a parcel belonging to Daniel Henderson, according to tax records.

In recent years, the church has expanded across 22nd Street, taking over the former Marleau Hardware and Elmer's Restaurant building.

Sandy Spang, a member of the church's building committee, said church officials want to design a new sanctuary and start construction in the spring. She said the most immediate goal is to vacate 22nd Street.

"Right now it's dangerous having kids run across that street. We could do things with the property if we could connect all those disparate pieces of property that we have," Ms. Spang said.

First Alliance has about 500 members and an average Sunday attendance of about 400, church officials have said.

Ms. Spang said the membership is spread across 33 ZIP codes.

She said the church wants its designs to complement the city's design and land-use goals for the area, which include the Frank Gehry-designed University of Toledo Center for the Visual Arts at the Toledo Museum of Art.

District Councilman Michael Ashford said the church operates strong youth programs and that he supports its efforts.

"This is one of the churches in the central city that has the money to stay there," Mr. Ashford said. "They have great plans."

The church made a similar request in 2000 to vacate part of Washington. It was denied because Monroe had just been made two-way and it was not known what impact the new Fifth Third Field would have on traffic patterns.

"Nine years later these streets are mostly used by the parishioners of the church and are used infrequently by the traveling public," the staff of the plan commission wrote in a seven-page report.

The plan commission is recommending approval, with conditions granting the city easements to maintain sewer lines.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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