© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Former home of historic Akron Baptist Temple is headed for the wrecking ball

The site of the former Akron Baptist Temple, now owned by The Word Church, is in disrepair, according to city of Akron officials. City leaders have requested emergency demolition.
City of Akron
The site of the former Akron Baptist Temple, now owned by The Word Church, is in disrepair, according to city of Akron officials. City leaders have requested emergency demolition.

A historic Akron church will be demolished soon.

Akron City Council unanimously approved funding for the emergency demolition of The Word Church, formerly Akron Baptist Temple, on Manchester Road in the city’s Kenmore neighborhood. Akron Baptist Temple was founded in 1934 and The Word Church purchased the building in 2018.

The Word Church, which operates several locations in Northeast Ohio, never fully moved into the building and put it up for sale.

The church was heavily looted during the pandemic and is now considered a safety hazard, Mayor Shammas Malik said in a Monday news release.

“We’ve seen frequent and increasing break-ins at the site and the condition of the buildings continues to deteriorate. Our Akron fire officials have concern that if a fire were to break out in one of the buildings, it may not be safe for them to even enter,” Malik said in the release. “We cannot put off this demolition. For the safety of our residents, we need to get these buildings taken down.”

City officials proposed legislation to Akron City Council Monday requesting to proceed with entering into a contract for the demolition by the end of March.

“It has been in this condition and has grown worse over years. If you go by this property now, it is wide open. It poses a severe public safety concern,” Deputy Director of Public Safety Eufrancia Lash said during council’s planning committee meeting Monday.

Brad Beckert, a business retention and expansion manager for the city, added that Akron police have responded to 53 calls to that building since it was considered vacant in 2020.

“The building’s basically been stripped of everything on the inside. It’s really become a nuisance and a very dangerous structure to our residents there,” Beckert said.

Some unhoused individuals have set up tent encampments there, he added. The city will partner with the Summit County Continuum of Care to assist those individuals, according to the news release from the mayor’s office.

Ward 9 Councilmember Tina Boyes, who represents Kenmore, plans to discuss the demolition in a meeting on March 5 at the Kenmore Community Center.

“This particular property has been a problem for our community for a long time,” Boyes said. “That is not good for the businesses surrounding it, it’s not good for the residents surrounding it, and it’s not good for those who are in the building.”

Some community members have asked if some parts of the historic building could be salvaged during the demolition, Boyes added. Beckert responded that he would connect Boyes with the contractor to see what might be possible.

The city will use funds already designated for demolition of vacant buildings for the project, but officials have also applied for state funding, Beckert added. Officials also plan to “aggressively pursue repayment” from The Word Church, who still owns the building, according to the news release.

The Baptist church was founded in 1934 by Dallas F. Billington, a Kentucky native who moved to Akron in the 1920s to work for Goodyear.

The church later became known for its live television and radio broadcasts.

Councilmembers are expected to vote on whether to fund the demolition of the building at its meeting Monday night.

The request comes nearly two weeks after another blighted structure, the former Ace Rubber Company rubber factory off of North Howard Street, was destroyed in a fire.

Updated: February 26, 2024 at 9:28 PM EST
This story has been updated following passage of the demolition funding by city council.
Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.