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'Rehab Addict' star to Roseville: Let me help you save old church

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Roseville — A fight to save a former Catholic Church in Roseville from demolition is pitting city officials against an HGTV star and Metro Detroit native who says it’s not too late for the city to work with the developer to “tweak” its plans.

Nicole Curtis, who grew up in Lake Orion and stars on HGTV’s “Rehab Addict,” says she’s offered her and her team’s expertise to help Roseville officials map out a plan to save Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Gratiot and prevent it from being torn down to make room for a storage facility. Curtis is an avowed preservationist whose show has focused on restoring older homes, including several she’s done in Detroit.

Curtis, who was asked to leave Tuesday’s Roseville City Council meeting after officials accused her of violating public comment rules and being disruptive, said her push to save the church has nothing to do with publicity. It’s about helping the city and citizens who want to see the church saved.

Nicole Curtis, a Lake Orion native, is the star of  HGTV's "Rehab Addict."

“We’re just trying to find a solution,” said Curtis, who believes the property where Sacred Heart sits could be split to save the church and rectory and still build the storage units if necessary. “We want to see that building saved.”

But city officials say the church’s sale to a developer — it was closed in 2017 as part of a downsizing plan by the Archdiocese of Detroit — is out of their hands. 

City Attorney Tim Tomlinson said city officials had no say in the archdiocese’s decision to close or sell the church. The city also isn’t in the position to buy the church itself. Similar facilities have sold for approximately $2 million. The council, meanwhile, already approved a conditional rezoning agreement by the developer.

Tomlinson said Curtis has been “making the rounds” on social media but didn’t respond when he reached out to her directly. Curtis contends she gave her cell phone number to all the key parties involved.

“I can appreciate that others have opinions of what they would and would not like to occur at the site, (but) the reality is that unless a developer has the money to do what some have proposed, it isn’t going to happen,” Tomlinson said.

The Archdiocese of Detroit, meanwhile, said the church was on the market for two years before the current buyer entered a contract to buy it, said spokeswoman Holly Fournier. The sale will close in a few weeks and while the archdiocese didn’t know the church would be demolished, “with all sales, we knew demolition was a possibility,” she said.

“The only limitations placed on properties sold by the archdiocese is that they may not be used in a manner that conflicts with church teaching,” Fournier said.

According to Roseville, Sacred Heart dates back to 1861 and was refurbished in 1950. A historic marker sits on the property, but Curtis said that only applies to the site, not the building.

Kari Zmick, 52, of Harrison Township grew up in the Sacred Heart parish. Her parents were married there, she was baptized there and also made her first communion and confirmation at the church. Her parents’ funerals also were held at Sacred Heart.

“It’s sad to me that something that meant so much to so many will be destroyed,” Zmick said. “I feel like we should save ‘history.' It’s a beautiful building inside and out. I would hope that the city won’t let it be torn down or made into something like storage units. The building could stay standing and utilize the inside for things that would benefit the community.”

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, pictured in 1974, was originally built in 1861, according to Roseville officials. It was refurbished in 1950.

Curtis points to other projects that have found new uses for old churches, including the Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen. She said the city could’ve put conditions on the developer. It was unclear Wednesday who the developer is.

“Every city has the power to say you’re allowed to do this development but the church and the rectory need to stay,” she said by phone Wednesday.

She said she attended Tuesday’s council meeting — wearing her work clothes, she said, because she came right from work — because residents asked her to come. She said the church’s redevelopment is an opportunity for Roseville, which she noted already has five storage facilities.

“We’re just saying ‘Use us,’” Curtis said. “We want to help. We have no stake in the game... (But) I know if they re-used this property, they could make Roseville a destination city.”

And if the opportunity presents itself for Curtis to buy the church property, she would, she said.

“Do I need more properties? No. But that was its saving grace, I’m more than happy to come forward,” she said. 

Tomlinson said city officials did reach out to the archdiocese about its plans, but by then, the sale has already been made and the archdiocese "was set on selling the entire property as one property and would not consider proposals of some purchasers looking to split the property up."

A timeline for the church’s demolition, meanwhile, hasn’t been set. Tomlinson said no demolition permits have been sought or approved but council approval won’t be required. They’ll go through the city’s building department.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com