Down­town De­troit Scien­tol­ogy church to open

The Detroit News - - News - BY CHRIS­TINE FER­RETTI AND MARK HICKS The De­troit News

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Af­ter years of plan­ning, the Church of Scien­tol­ogy’s down­town De­troit lo­ca­tion is slated to open to the pub­lic next week, of­fi­cials con­firmed Fri­day.

The new­est lo­ca­tion near Jef­fer­son and Gris­wold is sched­uled to wel­come the com­mu­nity start­ing at 9 a.m. Mon­day, spokes­woman Karin Pouw said.

“The open­ing of our new Church is a very spe­cial event for our parish­ioners who have worked to make this pos­si­ble, and are ex­cited that it is now com­ing to fruition,” she wrote in an email. “This his­toric build­ing, beau­ti­fully re­stored af­ter 5,000 hours of ren­o­va­tions, al­lows for ma­jor ex­pan­sion and is in an ideal lo­ca­tion.”

The church, which bought the for­mer Stan­dard Sav­ings Build­ing more than a decade ago, has been tack­ling an $8 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion amid plans to re­lo­cate from its Farm­ing­ton Hills lo­ca­tion.

A grand open­ing also was ex­pected this week­end but it “is go­ing to be a pri­vate event,” Bari Berger, a church spokes­woman, told re­porters fol­low­ing a City Coun­cil meet­ing on Tues­day. “Ob­vi­ously many peo­ple are go­ing to at­tend be­cause they are very ex­cited about that.”

A church di­rec­tor also said “we have 22,000 parish­ioners from all around the world join­ing us” for the open­ing.

To ac­com­mo­date the event, city of­fi­cials are slated to close Gris­wold be­tween Larned and West Jef­fer­son to traf­fic on Satur­day and Sun­day.

Singer Me­gan Kashat cir­cu­lated a flyer on Face­book cel­e­brat-

ing the open­ing with a ban­ner read­ing “D Done.”

“The new Church of Scien­tol­ogy De­troit is open­ing this Sun­day,” she wrote. “It’s been years in the mak­ing, and ev­ery­one is in­vited. It’s a huge event.”

Plans were an­nounced days af­ter the De­troit City Coun­cil mem­bers with­drew a mo­tion to re­con­sider ap­prov­ing a new sign atop the nearly 50,000square-foot site last oc­cu­pied by Ray­mond James in­vest­ment com­pany.

“We are proud to be part of the con­tin­u­ing re­vival of down­town De­troit,” Pouw said. “Our new Church will house a mul­ti­me­dia pub­lic in­for­ma­tion area on the main floor and a large chapel that can be used for com­mu­nity events.”

Berger could not site spe­cific mem­ber­ship fig­ure but es­ti­mated there were 1,000 donors to the build­ing. “There are a lot of peo­ple who care a lot about the fact that we’re here and we’re go­ing to be able to help De­troit even more from down­town,” she said.

An­other step in the process was the sig­nage, plans for which have long been in the works.

“We in­vested 5,000 hours of his­toric restora­tion of the site and the sign has been on top of that build­ing for 55 years and is part of its his­toric des­ig­na­tion,” Berger said.

The lat­est pro­posal called for re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing Ray­mond James mes­sage board and ticker signs with a sin­gle, 203-square-foot Scien­tol­ogy post fea­tur­ing re­v­erse chan­nel let­ters with LED halo il­lu­mi­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to city doc­u­ments.

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The church, Berger said, ini­tially came be­fore the City Coun­cil and the sign re­quest was de­nied. Last week, it did gain ap­proval. Then there was a mo­tion to re­con­sider at Tues­day’s meet­ing. How­ever, that mo­tion was with­drawn.

The mo­tion was put on the ta­ble, Berger said, based on clar­i­fi­ca­tion needed re­lated to the city’s or­di­nance and the his­toric na­ture of the sign.

“We had a lot of re­ally good peo­ple who re­ally wanted to help us with this. What it means for us is it’s like our steeple. We are go­ing to be do­ing tremen­dous amount of com­mu­nity work from that fa­cil­ity,” she said. "We want to make sure peo­ple can find us. We do a tremen­dous amount of drug ed­u­ca­tion, hu­man rights ed­u­ca­tion, all of that. We felt like it was the right thing and we had trust in the city coun­cil to do the right thing and we’re pleased that they did.”

Founded by Amer­i­can au­thor and hu­man­i­tar­ian L. Ron Hub­bard in 1954, the Church of Scien­tol­ogy now in­cludes more than 11,000 sites, mis­sions and af­fil­i­ated groups across 167 coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion, which counts ac­tors John Tra­volta and Tom Cruise as mem­bers, has also ac­quired more than 70 build­ings since 2004 in ma­jor ar­eas and this year an­nounced plans to launch a tele­vi­sion chan­nel.

Mean­while, Scien­tol­ogy has been the sub­ject of high-pro­file projects in­ves­ti­gat­ing its al­leged abuses of for­mer mem­bers, in­clud­ing Leah Rem­ini’s A&E do­cuseries “Scien­tol­ogy and the Af­ter­math” and Alex Gib­ney’s Emmy-win­ning doc­u­men­tary, “Go­ing Clear: Scien­tol­ogy and the Prison of Be­lief.”

Robin Buck­son / The De­troit News

The Church of Scien­tol­ogy, which bought the for­mer Stan­dard Sav­ings Build­ing, has been tack­ling an $8 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion.

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