Battle brewing over historic downtown Macon church

Historic Macon is opposing plans to demolish a downtown Macon church to make room for a Dunkin Donuts.

The Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday is scheduled to hear a developer's plans for the Tremont Temple Baptist Church at 860 Forsyth St. That's across the street from the Medical Center of Central Georgia.

"We're opposed to this," said Josh Rogers, director of the Historic Macon Foundation.
Rogers said he plans to attend the P&Z commission meeting where the church will request a permit to have the old church razed.
"Our mission is to preserve architecture and it would be a major loss if it's torn down," Rogers said. "Macon has too little African American architecture that has been saved. Once it's gone, it's irreplaceable."
Church trustee Theresa Robinson said the building is too costly for the church to keep. "We need to sell it ... it's an old building. It's not cost efficient for us," she said.
The large brick building is plagued with major leaks in the roof, mold, significant water damage and termites, according to a letter the church submitted to Planning and Zoning.
Church officials said it would cost them $350,000 to make repairs.
"This amount is twice the appraised value of the property," the letter states.

Robinson points out that the building is not on the Register of Historic Places, but Rogers contends that it's a protected structure because it's listed as a "contributing building to the Macon Historic District."

"To me, its never been a viable option for demolition," said Rogers. "We really want to find a preservation-minded developer that could use it."

Planning commission records say the century-old church has been vacant since 2007. The congregation moved to Bloomfield Road due to problems maintaining the building and lack of parking downtown.

A statement from the church to the planning commission says the building has a major roof leak and the building is termite-infested. The cost of repairs is $350,000 -- twice the building's value, the church says.

Pastor Camille Holmes writes that the congregation is "praying for the sale," so they can use the proceeds to support their new church.

For-sale signs are posted outside the church.

On Facebook, the preservation group Historic Macon wrote that it opposes the demolition, "and intends to work together with the congregation to find a solution that will help sell the congregation sell the church and preserve the current building."

The Dunkin Donuts will be built of brick and feature a drive-thru lane, according to commission records.

Tuesday's meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the commission's offices at 682 Cherry St.


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