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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Council delays demolition of historic local church

BRADENTON — Hoping a savior appears over the next several months, the City Council on Wednesday delayed making a decision on issuing a demolition permit for an old church in downtown Bradenton.

The council voted 3-2, with councilmen Gene Gallo and Bemis Smith in the minority, to continue a public hearing until Sept. 9 on the owners’ request to tear down the Bradenton Revival Temple, 725 Manatee Ave. W.

The owners, local attorneys Scott Kallins and Milton Little, purchased the 76-year-old building in 2001 in hopes of renovating it into offices for their firm.

In an engineering report they commissioned, the cost to renovate was estimated at more than $1.5 million, compared to less than $1 million to demolish the building and construct a new building.

William Robinson, an attorney representing Kallins and Little, told the council that the building is no longer viable for commercial or any other use.

The building has become a dangerous hangout for vagrants, Robinson said.

He said since the purchase of the building, Kallins and Little have had hundreds of inquiries from people wanting to buy and renovate the building of about 6,000 square feet. But after seeing the condition of the structure, the prospective buyers would not make a second contact with his clients.

Robinson said not allowing the owners to demolish the building would be a hardship on them.

Gallo said the public does not own the building, so the city should not have a say in what the owner does with it.

“We’re losing enough of our rights in this country,” he said. “The point is the owner of the property has a right to tear it down.”

City Attorney Bill Lisch reminded the council the criteria they must consider before allowing demolition of a historic structure, including the possibility of a National Register designation, the uniqueness of the architecture and other points.

At the public hearing, several people spoke against demolishing the building, saying it has historical significance and should be saved.

Cathy Slusser, director of historic resources for the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court office, said this demolition request is the first real test of the Realize Bradenton plan, which identified the economic benefits of the city’s art, culture and heritage assets.

The council also heard from Mickey Palmer, who spoke of his religious upbringing in the Bradenton Revival Temple.

“It was a wonderful place,” Palmer said. “As a young boy I remember it being cavernous, and the old wooden pews.”

He said his mother, who was in the council chambers, was married in the church.

Councilman Harold Byrd suggested the board postpone action for 60 days because he received a letter from Dale Schlafer, president of the Center for World Revival and Awakening, stating he was interested purchasing the building.

Schlafer did not return a telephone message left at his office.

Little said he was not opposed to waiting 60 days. However, he asked that the council approve the demolition and promised he would not pull the permit until after the 60 days.

The council did not approve the demolition, but extended the public hearing until Sept. 9 to give Schlafer time to contact Little.

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