CUMBERLAND – A historic church in Cumberland has been saved from demolition — for now.
A crowdfunding campaign to raise $75,000 to keep the vacant 102-year-old St. John United Church of Christ from being demolished as soon as this summer has reached its goal.
Thanks to the online effort, which included a $25,000 donation from the town and another $25,000 from Indiana Landmarks — which advocates for the preservation of historic structures — church officials have agreed to delay plans to raze the building.
Indiana Landmarks and town officials announced Wednesday they raised $75,640 from more than 95 donors to protect the structure at the corner of German Church Road and Washington Street, which has been at the center of controversy for several years.
“The number of donations we received shows just how much the community values the German Church and is committed to its preservation,” said April Fisher, town manager, in a press release.
Town officials will find out this fall if a prospective plan by Indianapolis-based TWG Development LLC to buy the building will move forward; the deal is contingent on the awarding of affordable-housing tax credits to build senior apartments. Officials expect to learn in September whether the project will receive the credits.
The project was not awarded the tax credits in 2017 but was placed on a wait-list. If other recipients of the credits fail to move forward with their plans, those credits could be passed on to wait-listed efforts, including the church renovation.
The plans call for TWG Development to preserve the historic structure and the surrounding cemetery while building 60 income-based senior apartments.
In the meantime, church officials — who moved out of the building in October 2015, saying they could no longer afford the structure’s maintenance — say they’re pleased the crowdfunding campaign was able to raise the funds and save the church — at least for a while.
If the project can’t move forward this fall, church leaders would have to wait until sometime in February 2018 for the next tax-credit cycle. Church officials have yet to determine what they’ll do if they’re asked to wait beyond September to complete the sale.
“That’s something that will be voted on by the congregation in a few weeks,” said Rich Suiter, church board member.
Demolishing the building will make the land more attractive to sell, church officials have said, but they have been willing to work with Cumberland officials to find a buyer who will preserve the structure.
The congregation moved out of the building to a temporary site, the Muesing Activity Center at Prospect Street and Carroll Road, in October 2015. It needs the funds from the sale of the old church to build a new one, church leaders say.