Scientology is making headlines in a new article the New Have Independent.
They have owned the “new” ideal org for 20 years — yes TWENTY and have done NOTHING with it.
It was one of the early announcement that Miscavige made, touting his “ideal org” program, and even had a “fly-through” CGI video showing what the renovated building would “soon” look like. This and the Battle Creek Michigan “ideal” building are probably the two oldest unrenovated ideal orgs (unless you count Toronto which has been there since before the ideal org kick even started).
The locals are not impressed. Here are some excerpts from the story (including two photos of the building):
A former Westville department store remains fenced off, empty and rundown — 20 years after the Church of Scientology bought the property, five years after the church last won permission to convert the site into a religious hub, and one year after a city board found that the long-vacant building should stay off the tax rolls.
That’s the latest with 949 Whalley Ave.
This year marks the two-decade anniversary of the Church of Scientology’s purchase of the former Hallock’s furniture store property in September 2003 for $1.5 million. The building opened in the 1930s as a Masonic lodge.
For the past 20 years the prominent Westville building has sat empty under the ownership of a local chapter of a modern international religion founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, popularized by Hollywood celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and sharply criticized by investigative journalists like Lawrence Wright.
According to the city’s online tax records, the church, which operates out of a rented commercial storefront up a block across the street, has not had to pay any property taxes on 949 Whalley for at least a decade. The property remains tax-exempt today despite dissent between the city’s tax assessor and the Board of Assessment Appeals. (Read more on that below.) The city last appraised the property as worth nearly $3 million.
A key reason why the church has been able to preserve the property’s tax-exempt status is that it has long promised to renovate and revive the vacant building into a center for worship and public outreach.
“In any story you may write, please convey our dedication to restoring this landmark and others around the world for our parishioners and their communities,” Church of Scientology spokesperson Sonia Gobbini told the Independent in email comments provided for this article. “Our goal is restoration to magnificence.”
“The property requires top-to-bottom construction to return it to its former standing in the Westville Village Historic District,” Gobbini said of 949 Whalley.
The roof demands repairs; additional structural supports are needed; the foundations must be retrofitted to provide a base for the building; all new utility services, including water and sewer lines and an entire electrical system, are needed. Fresh asphalt, retaining walls and a storm drainage system, Gobbini continued, all remain on the church’s to-do list.
While Gobbini expressed the church’s intent to move forward with the project, nobody from the church would respond directly to repeated inquiries from the Independent as to why no construction progress has been made for such a substantial period of time.
The Church of Scientology has drawn attention for buying up properties around the state, securing tax-exemption and then leaving those buildings to rot. A similar situation in Philadelphia saw that city sue the Church of Scientology in 2013 for $8 million — for leaving a building empty just for six years, as opposed to 20. Read more here in the Tampa Bay Times about what cities like Clearwater, Florida, home to more expansive real estate takeovers by the Church of Scientology, are trying to do to prevent and respond to mass vacancy and stalled developments.
“It feels like a property owner who doesn’t have any intention of developing the property and had no intention of responding to pressure,” she said.
In the winter, she stated that the stretch of sidewalk along 949 Whalley Ave. is often the only portion that goes unshoveled.
“Any property owner with the type of resources the Church of Scientology has should be expected to [do] landscaping and manage the sidewalk,” she said.
“I’d love to see the city flex whatever muscles they have” to take back the building and bring new life to the property, but she said she was unsure what power the city had to intervene other than urging the property owners to sell the space to another developer.
At the very least, Donius said, “I do think the church should be paying taxes. I don’t think it would spur development, but we could at least be getting some money out of them.”
This is another example of how the great “ideal org” program has been a complete failure. Scientology is further away from “Clearing the Planet” or even making all orgs the size of old St Hill (the latest requirement for the release of the imaginary OT 9 and 10) than it ever has been.