Kensington Church declines school purchase

May 17, 2019

An overflow crowd filled the Hackett Building in Bloomfield Village on Tuesday, May 14, to object to a purchase agreement of the Detroit Country Day School property at 3600 Bradway Boulevard by Troy-based Kensington Church, and in the end, the church withdrew its $2.9 million application to purchase the private school's 3.5-acre Bloomfield Village Campus.

Detroit Country Day School in October 2017 broke ground on a $30-million expansion project to combine the junior and lower schools into a single campus on Maple Road, thus eventually leaving the Village Campus vacant near Maple and Lahser roads. Meanwhile, Kensington Church has been renting space from the Birmingham School District for the past decade at nearby Groves High School for Sunday services, said Don Kegley, CEO of Cunningham-Limp Co., which is under contract with both Detroit Country Day School and Kensington Church.

According to Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie, the property is zoned for church or school, with deed restrictions indicating that if the property sits vacant for two years, it can revert  back to single family homes.

The church proposed to keep the majority of the historic 36,000 square-foot building, which was constructed in the 1920s for the Birmingham School District and renovated in 2003 by Cunningham-Limp. Preliminary plans called for razing about 19,000 square feet of two arms built to accommodate classrooms. About 16,000 square feet would then be added to accommodate an auditorium and lobby for services and pre-functions. Parking would be located to the north of the building. The auditorium would house about 450 people for worship services. Construction costs were estimated to range from about $5 million to $6 million.

Kensington Church currently has six locations. On its website, Kensington Church promotes itself as a church with campuses where “Every week thousands of people across Michigan experience Kensington through campusing. Think of campusing as putting the music, message and mission of Kensington in a box and unpacking it in any of our six locations...Each campus has its own lead pastor, local outreaches, and unique community vibe.”

However, residents in the adjacent Bloomfield Village neighborhood objected to the purchase for a large church. Since Friday, May 10, a petition which was circulated in Bloomfield Village in opposition to Kensington Church, based on concerns of excessive parking incursions into the neighborhood from church services and other events, that the church was landlocked and could not expand beyond its boundaries, garnered over 600 resident signatures.

In addition, Kegley and the village board were presented with a map indicating where residents who opposed the church lived, and those who were neutral lived.

“It was incredible how many residents were opposed,” said Justin Near, who opposed the church.

At a previous village meeting, on April 16, Kegley had said they were doing a traffic and parking study.

“Traffic flow, noise, parking, and off-campus parking – those are the understandable concerns of the neighbors,” Kegley said. “We want to solve those problems. We recognize we won't get unanimous support, but we want to create something that the majority will be happy to have as part of the neighborhood. We want to be transparent and have them be part of the process. The collective determination would be something that would compliment and assimilate into the neighborhood, or it won't. If the community decides they don't want it, we won't build it.”

On May 14, after the presentation of the petition and several members of the public spoke out against it, Kegley announced they were officially withdrawing their application.

After their surprise, the crowd applauded and gave Kegley a standing ovation.

Near said an alternate use idea being considered amongst residents is to purchase the property as a playground/community center. There are approximately 1,080 households in Bloomfield Village, he said, and if each contributed approximately $3,000, they could purchase the property and maintain it.

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