The $13.6 million plan to expand a city-owned parking ramp near the downtown business district around Chippewa and Main streets has narrowly cleared one hurdle but now faces another.
Common Council members voted, 10-3, on Tuesday to begin condemnation and demolition proceedings against a four-story office building at 43 W. Huron St. now occupied by the Church of Scientology.
That vote paves the way for a 10-level addition to the Owen B. Augspurger Parking Ramp on West Huron, a move that proponents say will help the city lease its vacant downtown office space.
Because the Council was voting to seize and condemn the building through eminent domain, the measure required a two-thirds vote to pass and barely managed to get it.
The Council had engaged in several previous debates regarding the merits of a parking ramp expansion that would require the demolition of an occupied city office building, particularly since the Church of Scientology has made clear its desire to remain in the building.
"Demolition is not a good economic-development tool," said Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk, one of three Council members voting against the proposal. "Eminent domain should not be used to tear down a viable building. There is no creative willingness to look at alternatives to demolition."
Proponents of the parking ramp expansion said the first two floors of the new structure would provide attractive office and retail space.
Council President James W. Pitts said the Council is not likely to have the final word on the Hurst Building demolition because the Church of Scientology intends to pursue court action to protect the building.