Gilbert will raze its first Mormon church — built in 1918 — in favor of a two-story office and retail center in a key location in the town’s struggling downtown.
Phoenix-based Land Capital Group plans to spend $3.2 million to create two high-end, ornate buildings to house offices and retail outlets, including possibly a restaurant or coffee shop to increase downtown pedestrian traffic, said Paul Klink, director of acquisition for the company.
Klink promised the Town Council he would expand his proposal to revitalize other blighted areas downtown by seeking to purchase land to the north and west.
“Something needs to stimulate a lot of change,” Klink said. “We want people to feel they can come and stay — to create an environment that’s people friendly.”
The council voted 5-1 late Tuesday to approve the proposal by Klink, a Gilbert resident.
The town has long been debating what to do with the aging structure, which will be used by the Gilbert Fine Arts Association as a theater until June 30, and previously housed a Boys and Girls Club.
In approving the offer to purchase the land for $600,000, the council turned down a competing proposal by Gilbert resident Dave Chance of Chance Construction, who in a speech described the building as holding witness to Gilbert’s history and urged the town not to “lethally inject” an 88-year-old monument to the town’s past.
Memories of weddings and Gilbert history would be lost with the building, he said. He offered to purchase the land for $150,000 and to house similar businesses.
“This old church can’t stand up here and talk to you,” he said, “but it’s part of Gilbert’s heritage.”
However, council members said the building is in such bad shape that even Chance’s design, which would have renovated the white adobe church while adding details such as rock and tall arching windows, made it seem like an entirely different building, defeating the intent of preserving history.
Councilwoman Joan Krueger was the lone supporter of Chance’s proposal, urging that one of Gilbert’s few remaining original adobe buildings be saved while locating Klink’s proposed building elsewhere.
But Councilman Don Skousen said that while he originally supported Chance’s idea, he could not pass up the opportunity to use the greater income generated by Klink’s proposal to possibly fund a small arts center on the southeast corner of Gilbert and Elliot roads. Klink said he would help in any fundraising efforts for the proposed arts center.
Klink said if a piece of old church is salvageable, such as an adobe wall, he would use it in his design to set off an outside eating area.
The plan still needs to go through various stages of town approval and a target date for completion has not yet been determined.