Downtown Detroit Church of Scientology set to open
Detroit — After years of planning, the Church of Scientology’s downtown Detroit location is slated to open to the public next week, officials confirmed Friday.
The newest location near Jefferson and Griswold is scheduled to welcome the community starting at 9 a.m. Monday, spokeswoman Karin Pouw said.
“The opening of our new Church is a very special event for our parishioners who have worked to make this possible, and are excited that it is now coming to fruition,” she wrote in an email. “This historic building, beautifully restored after 5,000 hours of renovations, allows for major expansion and is in an ideal location.”
A grand opening also was expected this weekend but it “is going to be a private event,” Bari Berger, a church spokeswoman, told reporters following a City Council meeting on Tuesday. “Obviously many people are going to attend because they are very excited about that.”
A church director also said “we have 22,000 parishioners from all around the world joining us” for the opening.
To accommodate the event, city officials are slated to close Griswold between Larned and West Jefferson to traffic on Saturday and Sunday.
Singer Megan Kashat circulated a flyer on Facebook celebrating the opening with a banner reading “D is for Done.”
“The new Church of Scientology Detroit is opening this Sunday,” she wrote. “It’s been years in the making, and everyone is invited. It’s a huge event.”
Plans were announced days after Detroit City Council withdrew a motion to reconsider approving a new sign atop the nearly 50,000-square-foot site last occupied by Raymond James investment company.
“We are proud to be part of the continuing revival of downtown Detroit,” Pouw said. “Our new Church will house a multimedia public information area on the main floor and a large chapel that can be used for community events.”
Berger did not site specific membership figure but estimated there were 1,000 donors to the building.
“There are a lot of people who care a lot about the fact that we’re here and we’re going to be able to help Detroit even more from downtown,” she said.
Another step in the process was the signage, plans for which have long been in the works.
“We invested 5,000 hours of historic restoration of the site and the sign has been on top of that building for 55 years and is part of its historic designation,” Berger said.
The latest proposal called for replacing the existing Raymond James message board and ticker signs with a single, 203-square-foot Scientology post featuring reverse channel letters with LED halo illumination, according to city documents.
The church, Berger said, initially came before the City Council and the sign request was denied. The sign, that will essentially act as the church's steeple, ultimately gained approval last week. A motion to reconsider was placed on the council's formal session agenda on Tuesday but later withdrawn.
“We are going to be doing tremendous amount of community work from that facility. We want to make sure people can find us," Berger said. "...we had trust in the city council to do the right thing and we’re pleased that they did.”
Pouw added: "Scientologists work with community partners and are active in drug education, human rights education and disaster response initiatives and look forward to expanding our activities in Detroit."
Founded by American author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard in 1954, the Church of Scientology now includes more than 11,000 sites, missions and affiliated groups across 167 countries, according to its website.
The organization, which counts actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise as members, has also acquired more than 70 buildings since 2004 in major areas and this year announced plans to launch a television channel.
Meanwhile, Scientology has been the subject of high-profile projects investigating its alleged abuses of former members, including Leah Remini’s A&E docuseries “Scientology and the Aftermath” and Alex Gibney’s Emmy-winning documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.”
The Associated Press contributed.