A historic church that barely escaped the demolition bulldozer could get new life as a restaurant or other business.
The Raleigh Planning Commission last week recommended approval of a rezoning change that would give the owner of the former Gethsemane Seventh-Day Adventist Church a wider range of options for the property, including the ability to serve alcohol.
The neighborhood landmark dates to 1920 and sits in the Prince Hall historic district near Shaw University.
Owner Phuc Tran said he doesn’t want to commit to a plan just yet, but a restaurant is a possibility for the property he brought back to life after a tornado ripped through the city four years ago.
“I’m very proud of what it is right now, but I think it can be much better if we put it to good use,” he said.
At a public hearing on the rezoning, neighbors were split on whether to support the change.
The local Central Citizens Advisory Council has voted not to support the rezoning, largely because of concerns about whether the building could become a restaurant that serves alcohol.
Other residents have been supportive of the rezoning, applauding Tran’s dedication to restoring the church.
When a tornado came through Raleigh in 2011, it left many damaged buildings in its wake, including the church, which was soon condemned by the city.
Neighbors mounted a campaign to save the structure, one of the first Seventh-Day Adventist churches built in North Carolina for a black congregation. In early 2012, Tran bought the property.
Jenny Harper, a neighbor, said Tran has done painstaking work to rehabilitate the building, and she trusts that he will continue to take his responsibilities to the neighborhood seriously.
“He is quite simply someone who is trying to do a good thing and contribute positively to this neighborhood,” she said.
Veronica Alcine, representing the CAC, said residents are open to a restaurant but some are worried about the nuisances that could accompany an alcohol license. Some also object to allowing alcohol in what was once a Seventh-Day Adventist church.
“We want to protect the character of the neighborhood, we want to protect the cultural heritage of the neighborhood,” she said.
Tran did agree to a conditional rezoning, which would prohibit a bar, nightclub, tavern or lounge at the site.
He also noted that the city’s proposed remapping of the zoning regulations would allow his proposal without any need for a change.
He said the rezoning would allow him to act more quickly than waiting to see if the proposed remapping moves forward.
The planning commission voted 8-2 to recommend approval of the rezoning request. The city council will take the final action.