Plainfield aims to preserve Grace Episcopal Church

PLAINFIELD – The future of Grace Episcopal Church and the property that surrounds it may depend on the redevelopment plan the planning board selects for the site at East 7th Street and Cleveland Avenue.

City council on Tuesday approved by a 4-3 vote a resolution directing the planning council to prepare a plan to redevelop the property.

The redevelopment plan aims to preserve the historic aspects of the 130-year-old neo-Gothic style church.

Had the city taken no action, the property would continue to deteriorate and the city would become responsible for any maintenance issues on the property, city officials said.

Valerie Jackson, the city’s director of economic development, said the sale of the church was approved by the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.

“There are potential buyers for this property. The diocese and the church will arrange the interior furnishings and fittings, including the carillon, stained glass and organ,” Jackson said. “The Grace Church congregation moved to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Plainfield.”

Because the church carillon, stained glass and organ are all private property, Jackson said the church could sell them, move them to another location or do whatever they want with the items.

Resident Ian Fraser said the church is a landmark under the city’s Historic Preservation Commission ordinance, justifying the city’s preservation of it. Fraser also argued that the chime is an exterior feature under the Commission’s order because it can be seen through the slats of the tower.

Earlier:Future of historic Plainfield Church uncertain amid planned changes to preservation efforts

Jackson said a 2021 building inspection report conducted by the diocese found dangerous health and safety issues, including asbestos in all areas of the building, lead paint, mold and defects exterior and interior structures. She said the city planner noted many of the same shortcomings during an interior inspection.

Grace Church’s current zoning allows mixed-use structures, apartments, townhouses, day care centers, retail, personal services, offices, art studios, art galleries, museums , restaurants, taverns, banks, health and fitness clubs, banquet halls and parking lots. , laundry room, retirement home, adult daycare, assisted living facility, funeral home, place of worship, fraternal organization and open space.

“The city would like the church to be preserved and reused in an adaptive way,” Jackson said, adding that by including the property in a redevelopment area and plan, the city can prescribe and restrict permitted uses for the site.

Some of the stained glass windows in Grace Episcopal Church in Plainfield

Although the Planning Board did not recommend that the property be declared an area in need of redevelopment, the property meets the criteria for designation. And because the property is part of the Urban Enterprise Area Rehabilitation Plan, the city council can direct or create a redevelopment plan for the property without designating it as an area in need of redevelopment, Jackson said.

Also see:Plainfield City Council narrowly approves limitation of powers of Historic Preservation Commission

Although the church is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, Jackson said it is also private property and under privacy rules the church could be torn down.

“We don’t support that,” Jackson said. “Without a redevelopment plan, we cannot prescribe that it should be repurposed adaptively and how that would work.”

Fraser asked if the city could deny a demolition permit.

Earlier this year, the church announced plans to sell the building after decades of declining attendance, declining revenues and building conditions, including the inability to pay for essential repairs expected to cost millions.

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Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, the courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Jerry B. Hatch