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Village to reacquire Church Street church



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Village Manager Paul Zelenak inspects the stained glass windows inside the church. Photos by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
November 28, 2012 - A trip to Europe can be like stepping back in time, when walking past the town pub is also walking past a building that has stood for hundreds of years.

Being the frontier-founded country it is, the United States does not have the same degree of longevity and old buildings are often torn down to make way for the new. There are organizations and historical societies trying to preserve history in the form of old buildings.

Lake Orion Village Manager Paul Zelenak is doing something to preserve some of Lake Orion's history and promote the downtown at the same time.

The Old Senior Center on Church Street is back in the hands of the village, and Zelenak wants to move village offices, along with Lake Orion's Police, into the 150-year-old building.

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"It's an opportunity to preserve the old building, which is over 150 years old," said Zelenak. "This will allow us to lease out the place where we are for retail or restaurants. We can move the parking up to the building too so it frees up parking in downtown too. We don't want to waste this opportunity to get this building."

The building once stood as the Orion Township Senior Center, and before that was a community center. Because Orion Township built the new senior center, located on Joslyn Road south of Clarkston Road, they were obligated to sell the building back to the village for the price of $1.

In the past, village offices and police services were run from the building, and Zelenak would like to return to the setup, but added it would not be necessary to put the police in the basement again.

Still, the aging building is not in a suitable state to be moved into yet and Zelenak believes it will likely be about a year before any offices are installed. A price for the restoration is unknown at this time.

"We're not in any rush to move and we'll probably acquire the building after the first of the year," he said. "There are things we need to do like electrical, mechanical and cosmetics. We're also looking at a plan of attack for refurbishing the old church area. Right now we're working with Oakland County to figure out what needs to be done before the move."

Zelenak added he already had several organizations interested in using the building for events, but said he doesn't want to let the public use it yet because of the poor state the building is in cosmetically.

While no one has expressed an interest in tearing the building down, Zelenak said it would be a shame for a historical building to be demolished in favor of installing modern buildings.

But the move was not without its opponents.

Councilman David Churchill pointed out another building in the area. Because of expensive repairs and a lack of interest, the Ehman/Angel Center has sat vacant, and Churchill worried the new building would face a similar issue.

"It would be a travesty to let this building go," Zelenak said. "Unfortunately, in the United States we think of something as old when it's 50 years old. You go to Europe and there are things that are 1,000 years old. We tend to just dispose and knock things down, but this is a landmark that is much better than the Ehman Center that has 30 different class rooms that would have to have the walls knocked down to be useful.

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