Detroit sues Perfecting Church for failing to complete megachurch after nearly two decades

perfecting church 2.jpg
perfecting church 1.jpg
Posted at 5:17 PM, Mar 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-01 17:50:04-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The city of Detroit is suing Perfecting Church after they say they failed to complete a megachurch project in a timely manner.

Perfecting Church, which is led by Bishop Marvin Winans, was set to build a new church, administrative building and parking structure near 7 Mile and Woodward. Nearly 20 years after the plans for the project were announced, the project remains unfinished.

"This was all prior to Amazon and this was all prior to the brand new Detroit transit station. So this really was seen in the eyes of many Detroiters as a transformative development that people had a lot of energy and enthusiasm for," said Corporation Counsel Conrad Mallet.

Currently a metal fence, which is bent at some parts, lines the building. The building appears to have some finishes with windows and a fully erected structure but also has wood panels covered in spray paint on some portions. Wednesday there was a van parked outside of the building.

The city says the last time a permit was requested to do work on the building was 2018.

"Clearly nothing is happening," said Mallett.

As a part of Mayor Duggan’s Blight to Beauty initiative, Mallett says the city began conversations with the church again in the summer of 2022 asking for finance plans and building status reports. After not receiving them, they sent a formal letter in January demanding the documents by February 13th. The city says they received a phone call from the church's attorney and a letter but it did not have the necessary information requested. On February 22, the city filed the lawsuit against the church and Bishop Winans.

"Either it’s going to be completed in a timely manner or it’s going to be sold but at the outset we want a judge to determine this thing is a nuisance thus giving the city opportunity to demand performance, demand sale or demolition," said Mallett.

Mallett says the lawsuit is not about making a profit or taking over the property but about compliance with the law.

"Initially, there were a number of dilapidated properties over in that area: some businesses, some vacant buildings, vacant houses. When the church came in they consolidated and bought all the properties around it and kind of cleaned up the area," said James Wahls who has lived in the area for more than 40 years. "What’s there now is a big improvement over what used to be there and I don’t view it as a problem."

Some neighbors say they believe the city may have political motivations for pursuing the lawsuit and should focus on going after properties in worse conditions.

"I can understand the city wants them to complete the job but I don’t know what the circumstance is. They might be short on money," said Joe Bennett who lives nearby. "That would be the last thing I’d look at, the church over there. You can run around the city and find a whole lot of stuff that needs to be done but it sticks out and it’s a church and they have a famous pastor."

7 Action News took the question regarding the reason for the lawsuit directly to the city.

"Why the lawsuit against this building when there are so many other blight concerns around the city?" 7 Action News asked.

"Because this one is highly visible. This one sends a message across the region to land owners who live in Hong Kong as well as land owners who live within the state of Michigan that the city of Detroit is serious about its demand for compliance," said Mallett. "We don't want to be accused of selective enforcement."

An attorney for the church released the following statement:

Perfecting Church has been in constant discussions with the city of Detroit, and we believed we are up-to-date in addressing all matters of concern posed by the city.

We are shocked and extremely disappointed that the city would take this course of action, in the dark of night, and in our opinion, not acting in good faith. The Perfecting Church's attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit; we will have further comment at a later date.

The city says the church will have 21 days from the lawsuit filing date to respond. What happens after the three weeks is up, will be in the hands of the judge. The city says they want the judge to assign a representative from the city to oversee the progress of the church moving forward.