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Struggling church group may fall out of Paradise

Bank and city have property concerns about old theater

Oct. 16, 2008

A financially troubled church group may have to vacate a historic Six Points theater building.

The Paradise Family Life Center is facing two challenges: The city of West Allis is unhappy the group has not lived up to its obligations specified in a special-use permit, and the State Bank of Chilton recently foreclosed on the group’s mortgage for the old Paradise Theater, 6229 W. Greenfield Ave.

The Common Council withdrew the permit Oct. 7 after more than three years of complaints regarding the exterior of the building.

A ‘war torn’ look

The city’s problems with the church center on two main points: the lack of windows on the building’s east side and a debt of $70,000 toward parking for the area’s redevelopment.

Several council members described the building — located within the Six Points area, one of the city’s busiest intersections where 60th Street, Greenfield and National avenues cross — as looking “war torn.”

The east side of the building, which the church planned to convert to a restaurant, is open-aired and vacant. Neighbors said that has brought unwanted activity, such as skateboarding.

Neighbors and city officials also are concerned the building could have a negative affect on the redevelopment of the Six Points area, including the under-construction Belmont Condominiums across the street.

An online real estate listing of the facility states the luxury condos begin selling at $192,000, with the fifth-floor townhouse style condos selling for more than $400,000.

Financial considerations

However, church officials said they have made $1 million in improvements in the theater and pleaded with city officials for more time to raise money for the parking and windows, which they estimated to cost $40,000.

Thomas Redlich, pastor of the group, went so far as to promise the council in a public hearing that the church would have the money by the end of the year or he would resign.

But it is not just the city’s demands that must be met. The church is behind about $120,000 on its mortgage, and a sheriff’s sale is expected to be held in March.

Between the mortgage, parking and windows, the church needs to raise about $230,000, which Redlich was confident would happen given the church’s history of fundraising.

“It is wrong to take our church,” Redlich said, before leaving the council meeting. He could not be reached for additional comment prior to deadline.

Patience a virtue?

Another church official, Fred Genrich, told the council that voting to extend the special-use permit would be a “vote for the Lord.”

But council members, while acknowledging the money put into restoring the theater, said they already have given church officials enough time and voted 8-2 on Oct. 7 to revoke the church’s permit.

“It’s not fair to the city or to the development going on in the area that you procrastinate,” Alderwoman Rosalie Reinke said.

Aldermen Michael Czaplewski and Vincent Vitale, both of whom represent the district that includes the former Paradise Theater, voted in opposition. Vitale said he did not see a problem with giving the church a little more time to come up with the money, considering its investment.

“I don’t believe it takes any brains to give these people another four weeks, five weeks to fulfill their wishes,” Vitale said.

Though the old permit is now gone, the church can reapply for another special-use permit if and when it obtains the necessary funds for exterior improvements.

Until then, Paradise is not allowed to hold services, though it can still use the building for other purposes. The church’s owners Ziklag Global Investments, which also is in the building, can continue to operate there.

Mark Schaaf can be reached at (262) 446-6605.

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