By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Planning commissioners approved Phase I preliminary site plans Jan. 21 for a proposed performing arts center at the former St. Elizabeth Church location and a medical center north of Bacon Library.
Plans for the 300-seat performing arts auditorium and a community education center are being undertaken by the Downriver Actors Guild, currently located at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle Ave.
The former St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, at Goodell and Second streets, closed since 2013, has about 63 off-street parking spots, with two dozen more on-street parking spaces.
Like many Catholic churches built during the post-World War II boom years, when neighborhoods were growing rapidly, and families walked to nearby houses of worship, the merging of Catholic parishes in the past two decades left the now-empty worship center lacking offers from other denominations whose members would draw from surrounding cities and would need more parking for a church whose pews seated more than 400 people.
The Rev. Brendan McCarrick, parish administrator for St. Vincent Pallotti Catholic Church, which merged with the remaining St. Elizabeth congregation, expressed enthusiastic satisfaction that the building would no longer be vacant and subject to vandalism and break-ins. He was also pleased that the parish buildings could be re-purposed for the community good.
While DAG plans to renovate the building, in phases, to accommodate its needs, the plans of Dearborn developer Mike Kaseem, who hopes to erect a medical center at 2533 and 2557 Biddle Ave., are dependent of demolishing the structures on the land.
A Civil War-era house at 2533 Biddle, a longtime florist shop, already has been demolished, and a rooming house at 2557 Biddle is slated for demolition as well.
Staff at Bacon Memorial District Library, which is immediately south of the proposed medical center, expressed concern that medical center patrons might use its smaller parking lot, north of the library, if the medical center did not have enough patient parking.
An architect, who spoke on Kassem’s behalf, said he could develop a rendering that would allow for more parking spaces if he had permission to sacrifice some of the greenspace buffer for parking spots.
While the planning commission did not acknowledge the architect’s verbal offer, it did approve the Phase I preliminary site plan review for the proposed medical center.