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Daniel SerdaDaniel Serda at a public hearing Sept. 13 asked for a chance to implement a plan to preserve the old St. John the Divine Church building in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo)
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Victor HernandezVictor Hernandez at a public hearing Sept. 13 said he had doubts about the structural safety of the old St. John the Divine Church building. (Staff photo)
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Ramon Murguia"This is not about preserving history, it’s about a blighted building,” Ramon Murguia said at a public hearing Sept. 13 on the old St. John the Divine Church building in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo)
Speakers continued to be at odds Sept 13 over the future of the former St. John the Divine Church building at 2511 Metropolitan Ave.
A public hearing on the issue at the Argentine Community Center, 2810 Metropolitan, drew more than 50 persons.
UG officials conducting the hearing asked for ideas on “viable alternatives” for the building, and asked the public to “discuss their merits,” but many speakers missed the point of the hearing, instead reverting to either a “for” or “against” demolition stance and staying far apart on the issues.
The building recently was placed on the Kansas Register of Historic Places. It also had a local demolition order on it that is under review. The building opened in 1887 originally as the Metropolitan Avenue Methodist Church, and was sold in 1937 to the Catholic Church, according to the application for the historic register. About 20 years ago, the church was closed and sold to a private owner.
Those who were for tearing it down said the building was an eyesore that had been a blight for about 20 years. Those who were for preserving it said it had historical significance. Several speakers spoke on both sides of the issue. Those in favor of tearing it down do not have other plans for the site, sources said earlier.
“We do not need a building to remind us of our history,” one resident said. She suggested instead that public tax monies be spent on education at Harmon High School, for example.
Monica DeLeon agreed. “Like Gracie said, we don’t need that building to have our heritage. We know where we come from.”
Loretta Escobar, another neighbor, agreed and said the vacant church building attracts the homeless. There has been graffiti and illegal dumping at the site.
She wondered what was taking so much time. If they have the money, they should fix it up, and if not, tear it down, she said.
Janet Alvey Powell said other parts of the world have a great appreciation of the history around them, with people living next to historical buildings that are preserved.
“This nonprofit should be given a chance,” she said.
“You could save this building,” said Gary Hughes. “It’s up to you if you want to preserve your history.”
Florentino Camacho Jr. said the church had opened its arms to him. The church building could be preserved so people could know where they came from, he said.
Victor Hernandez, a nearby resident, said it was a little frustrated to be painted as an insensitive community that doesn’t care about its history. He said the building was not sound structurally and that it could be a hazard if there are high winds.
While the renovation sounds like a good idea, Hernandez doubted if the group had enough money to carry it out.
Daniel Serda, a Kansas City, Kan., resident and planner, who first went to St. John the Divine as a 2-year-old, and has volunteered with the project for several years, asked the audience and the UG for room and time to implement the plan to renovate the building.
Those plans include stabilizing the building and making it structurally sound.
The nonprofit group wants the building to become a community arts and Hispanic heritage center.
“What this issue is about is respect,” said Ramon Murguia, a resident. “We don’t have people’s respect.” When there is blight for 20 years, it shows a lack of respect, he said.
“This is not about preserving history, it’s about a blighted building,” Murguia said. “Please respect the voice of the community, because this community has had enough of blight and negligence.”