CINCINNATI — The Historic Conservation Board voted unanimously Monday to recommend to city planning that St. Mark's Church in Evanston be deemed a local landmark.
Landmark status would offer the property crucial zoning protections that those fighting to save the church said the building deserves.
"We don't build things like this anymore," said Paul Muller, executive director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association. "It makes it that much more important to keep the ones we have."
The church has been closed for about a decade and is currently owned by the Church of the Resurrection. The owner opposes efforts to preserve the building and has already entered into an agreement to sell it to developer Kingsley Realty.
"The contract acknowledges the possibility of the demolition of the property and includes an agreement of how to go about that," a representative of the Archbishop wrote in a statement.
In 2019, the Evanston Community Council aimed to buy the church from the Church of the Resurrection and convert it into a community center, but the deal never came to fruition.
The church, with architecture mirroring the basilicas of Rome, has long been a safe space for worshipers in the historically Black neighborhood of Evanston. The church was once the home of one of Cincinnati's largest Black Catholic congregations but hasn't held regular services since 2010.
Urban renewal projects in the past have also left many residents in the neighborhood feeling wary of new development.
"The entire business district of this neighborhood, in the 60s, was demolished when the interstate came through," said Angie Lipscomb, member of The Mark. "And this church was just at the edge of that. And it's almost a slap in the face to say that we're also going to remove this."
The application to grant landmark status to St. Mark's will ultimately go to city council after being reviewed in the city planning department.