Highland Heights hopes historic church can escape demolition for planned gas station

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Community leaders in the Highland Heights neighborhood are hoping to keep a historic church from becoming a gas station.

Highland Heights United Methodist Church at Summer Avenue and Highland stopped having services in 2019 due to declining enrollment. It had been open more than 100 years.

The new owner has proposed demolishing the building for a gas station.

“When people were in need it was seen as beacon of hope, a place where people could go to get food and clothing. It was a place that was known to be warm and inviting,” said Christina Crutchfield, communication coordinator for The Heights CDC.

Crutchfield pointed to the fact there are already two gas station/convenience stores at the busy intersection. She hopes a petition drive started by the Highland Heights CDC will encourage the owners to consider a different use for the property.

But, she admits that legally, the developers have every right to tear down the building.

According to the managing broker, the new owners Rafat and Tallat Khmous paid $700,000 for the property and plan for mixed use development, with construction expected to start in 2022. They say they have plans to save as much of the exterior structure as possible.

We’re told the new owners are aware of the petition drive and plan to meet with members of the community to get their input.

But Highland Heights homeowner Steve Noblett says property owners have a chance to make a positive change on this part of Summer Avenue, a stretch of this diverse corridor where residents need grocery stores, not more gas stations.

“Decisions that are made about properties like this will either build a community or they lead to the degradation of the community and we’re really committed to rebuilding this community,” Noblett said.

If you want to sign the petition to save the Highland Heights United Methodist Church, click here.

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