Crossroads To Undertake $12M Restoration of Old Saint George in Clifton Heights

Old Saint George has sat vacant in Clifton Heights for many years, but will soon come back to life when Crossroads opens its newest church there.

The announcement was made earlier this year, but follows a string of news signaling that the urban regeneration of Cincinnati is more than skin deep. In addition to tens of millions of dollars in private investment flowing into the city, both jobs and population are growing. This has resulted in budget surpluses, growing enrollment at Cincinnati Public Schools, and a need for a new permitting center.

Crossroads will fill a space long occupied, and originally built, for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1874. It stayed there until St. George parish was merged with St. Monica parish down the street in 1989, and continues to carry on there to this day.

Since that time the building has sat vacant with a variety of proposals coming forward that would have restored the church for alternative uses.

Crossroads leadership say that their $12 million plan, which is celebrated by the Archdiocese, will not only restore the historic place of worship, but also bring it up to modern standards so that it boasts wifi and the audio and video displays that have become synonymous with Crossroads’ services.

“We’ll hold weekend services in this space, which will become the permanent location for our Crossroads Uptown site that currently meets at Bogart’s,” Jennifer Sperry, Crossroads Client Services Manager, told UrbanCincy.

“In addition, we hope for people to use our building as a community center, as it’ll be open throughout the week. We envision it as a space where students and locals can hold meetings, meet with project groups, pray, read, etc.”

The multitude of uses and variety of technology are all attempts to make inroads with younger individuals that have largely strayed away from religion throughout the United States.

At the University of Cincinnati, for example, Crossroads says that some 99% of students are not part of a church on campus. While they may attend churches elsewhere, such a huge gap also presents an opportunity for Crossroads.

Once complete, the restored Old Saint George will feature an 800-seat auditorium, a worship and community center, lecture venues, a coworking space with free coffee and wifi, and will see the structure’s grand steeples restored to their former glory before being burned down following a freak lightning strike.

Sperry says that they expect some 2,000 people to visit the facility on a weekly basis, which will be open seven days each week.

Unlike Crossroads massive facility in Oakley, Old Saint George is in a dense urban environment and is not surrounded by a sea of parking. As a result, church officials are expecting many of its visitors to arrive by walking, biking – a Red Bike station is located one-block away – or public transportation. But they also say that they are working with owners of nearby parking garages to determine if those spaces can be used during services.

The project is being funded mostly through private donations, but also through New Market Tax Credits. Project leaders say that several million more dollars need to be raised in order to complete financing, but also say that they are moving forward full speed ahead.

“The fundraising effort will be completed as part of a campaign that we’re launching this fall,” Sperry said. “We will use some of the initial money given in the campaign to finish the Crossroads Uptown project.”

Sperry says that the goal is to move into the restored structure by August 2016. Until then, she encourages those interested in learning more about Crossroads to attend their services currently being held at Bogart’s on Short Vine every Sunday at 7pm.

  • Mark Christol

    glad they will replace the steeples

    • Matt Jacob

      Yes, and I like the contemporary look of them too. Instead of just copying what they used to look like, it’ll give a more modern landmark to the area. Amongst the variety of architecture at the university it should seem too out of place either. Hope they light it up like the convention center and Great American Tower for events.

    • Replacing the steeples will help “place” Old Saint George if the proposed 11-story structure gets built across the street.

    • Absolutely right. I was thinking that when the video flew over top of the place and showed the empty lot across the street. Beyond that, the steeples also long served as a landmark for Clifton Heights and the Uptown community. It will be great to have them back.

  • matimal

    How many young god-fearing people are there in midtown/downtown?

    • Mark Christol

      isn’t it evangelical?

    • matimal

      I think so. How many such people live in a certain distance of Uptown?

    • I suspect more than enough to fill the seats for their services and keep the place humming throughout the week.

    • And one day it could be just off a streetcar line opening it up to OTR and downtown, plus its located on a couple major bus routes including Metro Plus.

    • matimal

      If that’s true, it shows me how out of touch I am with the neighborhoods and with the times in general. That’s always a challenge of middle age, I guess;)

    • charles ross

      The thing about evangelism is that they want to bring in the lost sheep, so this is a prime location for them, really a brilliant sort of power play. And Crossroads is, as folks have mentioned, very community focused.

    • matimal

      Are there more “lost sheep” in this location than in…say..Fairfield or Florence?

    • Well there are just a lot of people in general…and this area of the city, in particular, has a lot lower percentage of people actively involved with any church. Crossroads sees this as a major opportunity.

      What’s more, those suburban areas you mentioned have several very large churches already, with a much lower population density than Uptown. Uptown has no large churches, and many of its smaller churches have closed down over the years.

    • matimal

      I never thought it about it this way.

    • charles ross

      They are, but in an edgy, media-savvy kind of way…
      Thank the void somebody is saving a nice old church instead of imploding it.

    • Neil Clingerman

      Edgy evangelical is still evangelical and brings with it all the baggage one would expect – just hope they don’t get political.

    • BillCollins45227

      Neil Clingerman: I share your concern. At this point the Crossroads founding/senior pastor, Brian Tomes, has largely stayed out of politics. Remember here that Jerry Falwell stayed out of politics, too, for much of the 1960s as he built his massive Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg Virginia. Then, in the 1970s, he formed the Christian Coalition and turned both his church and the coalition into a massive right-wing political machine.

      I don’t think that’s what Tomes has in mind, but again watch this space.

    • BillCollins45227

      Matimal: Crossroads marketing plan is to reach the “unchurched.” On the East Side, they have succeeded at that at a level that shocks me every time I go in there and witness it (again, I’m not a member, but I do go there frankly as an observer).

      The church is *very* *very* male-oriented, so much so that it’s shocking to see their imagery that embraces war and armed forces imagery. In Clifton, they will obviously pursue the same male-oriented approach. This orientation obviously flows their analysis that men are less likely to attend church than women, that people under age 50 are less likely to attend church than people over 50, and that the way to “hook” the entire family (including mom and the kids) is to “hook” the dad.

      Culturally, Crossroads is one of the most amazing phenomenon I have ever seen. Beyond the male “hook,” what they *really* get is the social isolation that is so endemic in modern life. By offering a pleasant, wholesome space for people — including a big indoor play area for kids, at the Oakley main “campus” — and by organizing literally hundreds of small groups for their parishioners to connect socially, they are meeting this deep need for social interaction in our culture today. And, they are doing this social facilitation both in their physical buildings AND online (their online presence is amazing, with their App being distributed through Google Play and the Apple online store).

      Watch this space.

    • Neil Clingerman

      By male-oriented I’ve also heard rumors of them having very old fashioned views towards gender as well. Put lipstick on a pig and its still a pig.

    • BillCollins45227

      Yes. You’re right, Neil. The women on the staff at Crossroads are very well-trained and very professional. But, I would love to know how they really feel about some of the things that their pastor, Brian Tomes, sometimes says, about women and families, from the pulpit.

    • Neil Clingerman

      I want to make clear that I am very happy that they are restoring this church – I never thought I’d see those spires rise ever again, but I’m always weary of people who feel everyone needs to be saved it leads to people shoving their morality down everyone throat due to them feeling more moral than other people who have different but equally valid morals.

      I respect them helping the community and will continue to so long as they don’t start taking a more politicized approach towards spreading their morality.

  • I’ll withhold judgment on the steeple design until I see the real deal, but I do wish they’d have put the clocks back, even if a more modern version of them.

  • Destichado

    Bravo for young churches moving into old ones. Good on Crossroads!

  • BillCollins45227

    During the last several years, the 30,000 square-foot lobby of Crossroad Church on the East Side has become, frankly, the most prominent indoor public space on the East Side for mothers with small kids, independent business people, and work-from-home “knowledge workers.”

    This may sound like a strange statement, because Crossroads is ultimately a house of worship, but it’s true. I have never been a member at Crossroads, but I go to its public lobby 3-4 times per week because it is so close to my house and beats every other venue on the East Side — coffee shops, rec centers or whatever — as a pleasant place to hang out and meet people during daytime hours Monday-Friday.

    In this new location, it will be “competing,” in effect, with the Tangeman University Center and the rec center on the UC campus. But, if they follow a similar format at Old St. George that they have at Ridge and Madison, this place will be a *huge* plus for the Uptown area as a multi-racial hangout for both town and gown.

    BTW: Crossroads yesterday launched the 3rd major fund-raising drive that it has held since the church opened 20 years ago. Their membership, according to their literature, has grown from 13,000 to 20,000 just during the last two years. Again, regardless of one’s religious views, Crossroads is a powerful civic player in this City, and with the additional financing that they will surely raise from this fund drive, you’ll see a very interesting public space emerge at Old St. George that will, on balance, be very positive for Uptown.

    • These were my thoughts on the matter almost exactly. I suspect this will be a big positive for the Uptown community in general, but Clifton Heights in particular.

  • Neil Clingerman

    I’m happy to see this happen, I never thought I’d see those steeples replaced, however these sorts of Churches bug me…. the fact that they have so much cash and support socially conservative views (and oftentimes when churches like this get this much money they fund these sorts of initiatives). I wish these groups would keep to themselves, but proselytizing seems to be more important to them than actual morality and converting those who disagree is more important than the golden rule.

    However credit is due where credit is due, and I hope they are successful at revitalizing a space that otherwise wouldn’t have been remodeled even if I am wary of their moral world view.

  • KeepReal

    This place has a “client services manager”? And it’s a church? Well I’ll be….

  • charles ross

    Here’s another angle to consider.
    Vineyard is a similar organization to Crossroads, also suburban based and quite patriarchal (see Promise Keepers) and they have “adopted” the very beautiful old St Elizabeths church in Norwood. That church is a hidden gem, I think former Norwoodians Karin and Linford (aka OTR) sort of adopted it for a while. ( Could this be a little bit of a one-upsy urban mission move on the part of Crossroads? Hmmm?