Shelby Township board approves church to move into retail complex

By: Joshua Gordon | Shelby - Utica News | Published August 6, 2018

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Shelby Township Board of Trustees recently approved a special land use permit for a church to operate in a retail center off Auburn Road that has struggled with occupancy rates.

At the July 17 meeting, the board unanimously approved Living Grace Church to occupy two retail spaces at 2306 Auburn Road, located just east of Dequindre Road. The shopping complex, called Salem Plaza, comprises 13 units, and the two that Living Grace will rent total just under 3,200 square feet.

The Planning Commission recommended the approval, as the commission felt that it would not generate any issues for the single-family neighborhood to the south of the complex. Planning Director Glenn Wynn also said that there have been a number of openings in the complex recently, so the church would fill a need.

“Churches, as you know, are allowed as special land uses in every zone district,” Wynn said. “We thought this was a reasonable use for a retail center, particularly this one that has experienced pretty high vacancy rates in recent years.”

Wynn said the church will need one parking spot for every three seats in the church. With the church planning to set up a 96-seat sanctuary, the current 144 parking spaces are adequate, especially with most businesses in the complex not being open on Sundays.

Living Grace Pastor Tom Viers said that the church has been renting a banquet hall facility at the Days Inn Hotel near Crooks Road and M-59 in Rochester Hills. That has required the church to set up and take down every Sunday, so the church was looking for other options.

“Having to pack up and leave every Sunday, we wanted to look for a more permanent location,” Viers said. “This is a space we can build out to fit our needs.”

Viers said the search for a new space included Rochester, Rochester Hills, Shelby Township and Utica, with the main criteria to stay in the same area for the people who already attend the church. The rent also dropped significantly by moving into Shelby Township, Viers said, which played into the decision to select the location.

One of the retail spots will be left pretty much open, Viers said, and serve as the auditorium for the congregation. The second retail spot will have a few walls added to create some rooms for group meetings and children’s ministry, as well as house the already existing bathrooms.

The church has signed a three-year lease for the space. Viers told the Planning Commission that the church typically draws 30-40 people at each Sunday service, but the hope is to grow. If the church grows beyond the 96-person limit, it would hold multiple services on Sunday morning or search for a bigger location.

The new space will also allow the church to hold smaller group meetings during the week.