City of Akron Begins Demolition at Word Church Site

Akron, Ohio, March 19, 2024  — Today, the City of Akron began the demolition of the buildings that make up the Word Church site (previously Akron Baptist Temple) at 2324 Manchester Rd. The city hosted a press conference this morning to kick off the demolition. It will take approximately 90 days to fully demolish the buildings and remove the material. The city plans to aggressively pursue repayment for the emergency demolition from the current owners.

Speakers for today’s event included Akron Mayor Shammas Malik, Ward 9 Councilmember Tina Boyes, Executive Director of The Continuum of Care Mar-quetta Boddie, Acting Police Chief Brian Harding, Fire Chief Joseph Natko, Business Retention and Expansion Manager Brad Beckert, and Deputy Service Director Eufrancia Lash. Representatives were present from Summit County Land Bank (Program Manager Jim Davis), Community Support Services (Supervisor of Homeless Services Michael Harhager), and the Homeless Charity (Executive Director Lerryn Campbell).

“Demolition of blighted buildings in our community is a public safety issue,” said Akron Mayor Shammas Malik. “We know that removing these structures increases safety in neighborhoods and the feeling of safety which are both important to our community’s overall quality of life. This project emphasizes the power of collaboration and what can happen when city departments, City Council, community stakeholders, and others work together towards a common goal. While I wish there was a different outcome for this memorable building, today marks the start of the next chapter for the Kenmore community.”

The building originally housed the Akron Baptist Temple, one of the nation's first megachurches. The original structure was built in 1937 and a new, larger building was put up in 1949 to house the growing congregation. There was a fire in 1981 that burned the main sanctuary to the ground, and it was rebuilt two years later. In June of 2018, the Akron Baptist Temple sold the church and its property to The Word Church. The Word Church listed the building for sale in June of 2019. On August 10, 2022, the structure was ordered demolished by the Vacant Commercial or Industrial Building Appeals Board (“Board”) of the City of Akron. Since then, it has sat vacant and continues to decay, creating an increasingly unsafe situation. Akron Police and Akron Fire have been called to the site dozens of times over the last two years to respond to fires, vandalism, and more.

On February 26 of this year, Mayor Shammas Malik introduced legislation to City Council for the emergency demolition of the property due to the unsafe nature of the structures. Council unanimously approved the emergency measure and just over three weeks later, the city has begun the demolition.  The city has budgeted $1.24M for the demolition. The city’s Policy and Grants Strategist has been working closely with Summit County Land Bank to help secure funding from the Ohio Department of Development to help assist and the city is expected to receive up to $700,000 towards this effort.  

Over the course of the last several weeks, teams comprised of individuals from several community organizations within the Summit County Continuum of Care have been conducting outreach at this location. They’ve posted signs on the outside of the property and engaged with individuals on site to notify them of the upcoming demolition. They have helped connect several individuals with various social services agencies to address such issues as housing, mental health, and substance use. Anyone in need of assistance can contact the 2-1-1 hotline for resources.

While today’s press conference was in progress, Akron Police and Akron Fire were searching the buildings in teams to confirm the structure is empty before the demolition begins in full force tomorrow. The site will remain secured for the duration of the demolition which should be complete by the end of June.

Due to asbestos and other unsafe material in the building, the city and contractor (Eslich) are unable to preserve bricks or other materials for residents wishing to keep a part of the structure.

The City of Akron would like to thank Swenson’s for the kind and generous donation of lunch for today’s search teams and crews.

Stephanie Marsh, Director of Communications or 330-256-1191