The pews are gone. So are the two-story arches that framed the nave of Zion United Church of Christ in Tremont for greater than 130 years.
However the central aisle of the church, a Gothic Revival construction in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, stays. Quickly, renters, quite than congregants, will traverse the high-ceilinged area to succeed in their entrance doorways. They will stroll beneath ornate chandeliers and climb stairs to a catwalk the place the partitions are lined with restored panels of 19th century stained glass.
Virtually 4 years after developer Dan Siegel bought the church and neighboring faculty, on West 14th Avenue on the southern finish of the Tremont Historic District, building staff are placing the ending touches on an uncommon conversion undertaking.
The buildings now home 25 residences — a dozen within the faculty and 13 within the church. A pair of two-bedroom items stretches into the previous bell tower, beneath a 175-foot-tall spire.
On the primary ground of the previous faculty, the church’s congregation nonetheless maintains a chapel underneath a long-term lease with the developer, for $1 a yr.
The undertaking, referred to as San Sofia Luxury Apartments, is an unorthodox strategy to remaking a non secular constructing in a area replete with vacant church buildings and shrinking congregations.
Residential makeovers of church buildings aren’t unparalleled, however they’re uncommon throughout the USA. And Zion’s transformation is all of the extra notable for permitting a small but stalwart group of worshipers to maintain a 153-year-old custom alive on-site.
In preservation circles, the undertaking is not with out controversy.
The Cleveland Landmarks Fee signed off on Siegel’s plans and labored with him to make sure that as many stained-glass home windows as doable have been retained. The exteriors of the buildings have not modified considerably. However the developer and the architect, Cleveland-based Arkinetics, dramatically altered the within of a church acknowledged not just for its design but in addition for its historical past, as the positioning of a 1934 merger of Protestant denominations with German roots.
“It is an adaptive use that takes its inspiration from the historic character of the constructing, however it’s not a pure historic-preservation strategy,” mentioned Kathleen Crowther, president of the Cleveland Restoration Society. “However that is OK. Now we have to just accept that there are various levels of preserving historic buildings and that completely different conditions name for various approaches.”
Each condo at San Sofia — named after Siegel’s spouse, Sofia Lucaj, who chosen the paint colours, carpet, lighting and different finishes for the undertaking — is completely different. Columns punctuate some dwelling rooms and bedrooms. In a toilet, an embellished capital sits outdoors a bathe.
Relatively than placing in ductwork, which could have obscured uncovered brick and wood beams, the developer put in individually managed, wall-mounted heating-and-cooling items in each room, together with sensible thermostats.
The tiniest dwelling area, a 280-square-foot studio, is listed for $750 a month. Multi-story, two-bedroom items high out at 1,087 sq. ft, at an asking worth of $2,500 a month.
Siegel, whose Beachwood-based Integrity Realty Group owns roughly 7,000 condo items within the area, described the undertaking as a inventive endeavor. Building lasted two years. The prices are more likely to exceed $three.5 million.
“It is extra of an artwork undertaking than a completely for-profit deal,” mentioned Siegel, who had been eyeing Zion for years earlier than the congregation determined to promote and who introduced on residential developer Andrew Brickman as a partial proprietor.
John Abbott, proprietor of Cleveland-based Arclight Glassworks, spent a yr taking aside, rebuilding and reconstructing stained glass from the buildings. The inside demolition crew had eliminated all however the topmost panels from two-story home windows alongside the perimeters of the church, to make method for clear glass that will let extra pure gentle into the residences.
Abbott restored a few of these panels as insets for the second-floor walkway. He used leftover stained glass to construct a 14.5-foot-tall and 6-foot-wide characteristic, a window-style piece of paintings that now hangs, backlit, in an alcove over the previous entrance to the nave.
Utilizing a mixture of previous and new glass, he changed lacking panels within the church and faculty.
“There is not any different factor like that in Cleveland,” Abbott mentioned of the renovated church. “It is positively going to please a selected demographic. Persons are both going to stroll in and say ‘It isn’t for me,’ or they’ll say ‘The place do I join? I like it.’ “
The Rev. Scott Rosenstein, the congregation’s pastor, mentioned the church plans to renovate its personal area now that work on the residences is near-complete. The makeshift chapel within the schoolhouse has been a building passthrough, at instances. Final yr, Sunday companies moved to Rosenstein’s Tremont dwelling for a couple of months when the buildings did not have operating water.
“I do know, for Dan, it will most likely have been simpler to knock all of it down and begin from scratch,” Rosenstein mentioned. “He and his firm have spent, I am positive, a small fortune … on each retaining us there and retaining the historic character of those buildings.”
Zion’s congregation, which as soon as approached 600 individuals, is right down to a core group of 10. Since mid-March, they have been holding digital, video companies because of the coronavirus pandemic.
When members collect in particular person once more, they will have firm. The primary tenant signed a lease at San Sofia in mid-July. Siegel hopes to fill each buildings earlier than the top of the yr.
Crowther mentioned the undertaking may very well be a mannequin for different redevelopment offers, although she cautioned that every historic church needs to be examined by itself deserves — and, ideally, some can be left largely open inside, maybe remade as a restaurant or a performing-arts venue.
“In my view, it is all on the desk right here within the metropolis of Cleveland. … Now we have so many historic church buildings, and the very most interesting of them even are struggling to outlive,” she mentioned. “I feel that we’ve to hope that there are new methods to reuse church buildings, and we’ve to be open to new issues like this residential strategy. For these buildings to reside, they should adapt.”