Local Business Owners Hope to Buy Historic Church as Demolition Looms

Covered in vines and surrounded by a fence, the Church of Holy Innocents has seen better days. 

"It's just heartbreaking," said Diane Campion, who visits often to photograph the church for her paintings. 

The church was one of the first examples of American Gothic Revival architecture. Built in the 1850s, it's on the National Register of Historic Places. 

But the owners, Hope House Incorporated, recently filed an application for demolition. After a partial collapse last year and a failed attempt to sell it, they say the "property is not capable of earning a reasonable return."

Not even a mile away from the church, there are two local business owners who say this place isn't ready to go.

"My immediate thought was 'The building isn't done having its life,' " said Louis Bannister, the owner of The Enchanted Florist. 

He partnered up with the owner of Cider Belly, Jennifer Novak. Together, their goal is to preserve the old church and make it self-sustaining.

"My personal mission is to find jobs for people and to help them expand and find their wings and to be a part of the community," said Novak.

In their proposal, the church would become a space people can rent out, and the chapel would be a production kitchen, where food trucks can prepare large meals and aspiring chefs can learn.

They submitted the offer on Wednesday, just a week before the city considers the demolition application.

"We're hoping that it will either be postponed again or taken off the table on the 21st," said Novak.

The current owners are only selling it for a dollar, but whoever buys it has to demonstrate they can afford the cost of rehabilitation, which is estimated at $2-3 million.

"I would live here; really, I think it's great," said Campion.

That cost is the only thing keeping her away, but Jenn and Louis say they have investors and they're ready to give this old place a whole new life.

We reached out to Kevin Connally of Hope House Incorporated, but had not heard back by the time this story aired.

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