Scientology sign proposed atop downtown building

Detroit Free Press/May 14, 2015

By Joe Guillen and Matt Helms

The Church of Scientology is ready to show a much more visible presence in downtown Detroit.

The church wants to install a giant "Scientology" sign atop the historic Standard Savings Building at the corner of Griswold Street and West Jefferson Avenue, across the street from Hart Plaza.

Plans for the sign and other changes the church wants to make to the eight-and-a-half story neoclassical office building were proposed on Wednesday to the Detroit Historic District Commission, which oversees changes to the city's historic buildings.

The plans, first reported by Curbed Detroit, were not approved at Wednesday's meeting.

"The application was tabled to give the applicant more time to refine their proposal, especially in regards to the rooftop elements," commission chairman Devan Anderson wrote in an e-mail.

A "Raymond James" sign is now on top of the building, an indication of the building's previous owner, Raymond James Financial. The Church of Scientology of Michigan bought the building in 2007 for $3.5 million, according to city of Detroit property assessment records.

Scientology is a religion founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and its adherents include actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. The organization has been the subject of critical news reporting and an HBO documentary, "Going Clear," that featured interviews with former Scientology insiders who allege abuse and betrayal by church leaders.

Representatives of the church didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment this afternoon.

The building, built in 1930, is part of the Historic Detroit Financial District.

"Originally built for the Standard Savings Bank, this building stands on a historic site documented by a historical marker as the site of Detroit's founding and the location of the first Ste. Anne's Church in 1701 — the city and Detroit's oldest church both founded by French explorer Antoine Cadillac," according to a Historic District Commission staff report.

Rooftop signs are uncommon in the financial district, the report reads, but a precedent has been set with the existing "Raymond James" sign.

In addition to the new rooftop sign, the church wants to build a vertical sign that also reads "Scientology" above an existing clock on the building's southeast corner.

Gensler, an international design firm, presented the church's plans to the Historic District Commission. Gensler spokeswoman Julie Obiala said she was not permitted to talk about the project and referred questions to the church.

The church's website lists Detroit as one of more than 30 cities internationally where it plans to build or renovate new church facilities. The site doesn't specify the exact location in Detroit.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

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