Developer looks to transform Grace Lutheran into housing

Grace Lutheran Church, 13001 Cedar Road. Photo courtesy City of Cleveland Heights.

On Dec. 29, Grace Lutheran Church signed a Letter of Intent with SRC Investments Corporation of Mentor. In the letter, Richard Ferris, SRC owner, stated his intent to adaptively reuse the landmark church building at 13001 Cedar Road for housing. Fifty-five of 58 church members present at the Dec. 29 meeting approved the signing of the letter.

Sources at the church—who did not wish to be quoted—emphasized that the church is in the early stages of negotiating a purchase agreement for the building, and that nothing is final. “The building is not sold, and the congregation has not disbanded,” said a member of the church’s management team.

According to the letter, the developer has 12 months to conduct due diligence, assess the project’s economic feasibility and navigate the city’s permit and approval process. Richard Wong, director of planning and development for the City of Cleveland Heights, said that the city had not received any plans from the developer, but that city staff plans to set up a meeting with Ferris in the near future.

The church building, an English Gothic structure designed by architect J.W. Corbusier and dedicated in 1927, was designated a Cleveland Heights landmark in 1977. At its peak in the 1950s, the congregation, which dates from 1898, had more than 1,000 member families. Church officials estimate the number of members now at about 100.

The congregation had been considering its sustainability for some time, and had plans to redevelop the church building as senior housing and a center for the arts prior to 2008; however, historic tax credit funding never materialized and other funding fell through as the economy sank into recession.

The church is home to numerous arts and cultural organizations, including Heights Chamber Orchestra, Western Reserve Chorale, Choral Arts Cleveland, and Cleveland Messiah Chorus, and houses numerous community activities, such as book clubs, AA meetings, Ohio contra dancing, and rummage sales to support the Heights High band and orchestra programs. The church is the site of the Food Not Lawns community garden that provides food for the local food bank and the congregation's community meals. The church also provides overnight accommodations for the homeless through Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry.

A member of the church’s management team said that the church is trying to be as proactive as possible. It has informed the building's users of the Letter of Intent and has promised to keep them updated as the process unfolds.

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 8, Issue 2, Posted 9:32 AM, 01.08.2015