Old Lebanon church’s redevelopment plan split by city

The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lebanon, badly damaged in a fire just before Christmas 2017, is to be rebuilt at a new location.

But plans by the church leaders to oversee development of new homes around Pleasant Square Park, just north of downtown Lebanon, have been shelved, at least temporarily.

RELATED: Redevelopment plan includes historic Lebanon church damaged by fire

Last week, Lebanon City Council expressed support for plans to rebuild the church on city property on Cherry Street a few blocks north of where the church had been located for more than a century.

“We still envision contributing to the health of the community by developing a multipurpose facility,” Church pastor Karen Schaeffer said.

City Manager Scott Brunka said staff would begin writing up a development agreement with Pleasant Square LLC, a corporation formed by the church in response to concerns of law director Mark Yurick.

In addition, Brunka said staff would put together another request for qualifications for development of city property on Mechanic Street for single-family homes.

MORE: Details remain as Lebanon approves $18M development deal

Last year, the city began working with church leaders who submitted a proposal to rebuild the church, and develop a community center, business incubator and single-family homes around the Pleasant Square Park in Lebanon.

On Tuesday, Brunka said staff and church leaders had agreed to “pull out the North Mechanic Street properties and reissue a separate RFQ.”

Brunka said the new request for bidders for the new housing would probably go out in March.

Also Tuesday, proposed rezoning for North Broadway Commons, another redevelopment of city property by a developer responding to another RFQ, was sent for a final council vote. A committee has been formed to develop plans for a park in front of Berry Intermediate School along with the $18 million mixed-use development, on the other side of Broadway from the Pleasant Square neighborhood.

Bethel A.M.E. in Lebanon was formed 150 years ago. The church at 111 N. Cherry St., remained the place of worship and meeting location for church members until the Dec. 13, 2017 fire, attributed by fire officials to an electrical problem.

RELATED: Lebanon church fire believed to be caused by electrical issue

The old, fire-damaged church property, in the parking lot behind Lebanon United Methodist Church, will be sold, once a new location has been secured, according to church officials.

Brunka also told council that a business incubator, similar to what is proposed by Bethel A.M.E. and run by a consultant working with the church group, was “very impressive”.

Mayor Amy Brewer said the new plan apparently had “100 percent support” from the city council.

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