June 18, 2014 at 10:06 am

Detroit seeks owner of historic church to clean up ruins after fire

A fire destroyed the First Unitarian Church of Detroit on Woodward Avenue in May. (Carlos Osorio / AP)

Detroit — The city wants to force the owner of a historic church on Woodward that burned last month to clean up the ruins and erect a barricade during the removal, according to a lawsuit Detroit filed this week.

Salim Kemerko got a city wrecking permit and has demolished the fire-ravaged First Unitarian Church after the fire in May. But the debris remains on site in the city’s Midtown area and “warrants emergency action,” the lawsuit reads. Calls to Kemerko for comment weren’t returned.

The city wants Kemerko fined or the property seized if he doesn’t comply.

Detroit officials ordered the more than 120-year-old church razed in 2007. The process may have been stalled because the Romanesque Revival-style building joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Kemerko bought the church in 2006 from the Resurrection Promise Church, according to land records.

Fans of the building held a candlelit final service after the fire, including a planned reading of a speech delivered at First Unitarian's first service on Nov. 29, 1890.

The Associated Press contributed.

Rev. Roger Mohr of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit ... (Bryan Mitchell / Special to The Detroit News)