Former Idaho Falls church could see something new cookin’ inside its walls
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EastIdahoNews.com Reporter Mark Richardson interviewed contributor Shel Williams about the 13th Street Chapel on KEIR 101.1 FM. Listen to the clip above.
A haunted attraction at the old 13th Street Chapel could raise money to open a culinary arts school in Idaho Falls
IDAHO FALLS — Some people think old, abandoned buildings have ghosts haunting the halls.
But for the old brick building on the corner of 13th Street and Lee Avenue in Idaho Falls, those who have haunted it have been solid flesh and blood.
When Idaho Falls business owner Tyler Price first toured the building, evidence of vandalism was rampant. Graffiti, broken windows, shattered light fixtures and singed carpet from fires set inside were apparent all over the building.
Price, who owns the Austin Kade Academy cosmetology schools in both Idaho Falls and Pocatello, is looking to purchase the building to open a culinary arts school, but the structure requires extensive repairs.
“As it stands, it works perfectly for the culinary academy,” Price said. ”There isn’t anything I want to change. I just want to restore.”
To fund the renovation, Price came up with the idea of turning the building into a haunted attraction. The profits generated from the attraction would fund the creation of the culinary school.
He is seeking a three-year conditional use permit to make it a haunted attraction.
Price also wants to ensure the history of the building is preserved. The structure is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Price’s goal is to preserve the original architecture and repair materials damaged from neglect and abuse, while meeting current building safety codes. Contractor estimates say it will take about $1 million to bring the building back to its historic condition, Price said.
The efforts are already gaining some ground in city government. On July 7 the Idaho Falls Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that City Council approve rezoning the building. The three-year conditional use permit was also recommended by a 4-3 vote.
Generally, dissenting board members are in favor of the culinary school, but are concerned about any negative impacts to the neighborhood existing for the three years granted by the permit, said Brad Cramer, community development services director for the city of Idaho Falls.
The proposal now goes to the City Council for consideration at the August 27 meeting.
A number of residents attended the July 7 meeting both in support and in opposition of the proposed zoning change.
Yon Scott, who lives on 14th Street, is concerned about the potential increases in traffic, noise and trash that could occur during the five weeks the haunted attraction would operate each year.
“I want to know what is going to protect us,” Scott said at the meeting. “I would love to see this church be restored, but I want some reassurance that my quiet street stays quiet.”
Others have raised concerns about parking, since the building’s small parking lot provides fewer than half the stalls the new zoning requires. For the haunted attraction to open, the conditional use permit must also include a parking variance.
Some proposed solutions to the parking shortage could include a shuttle between public parking near the railroad tracks, or using on-street parking on nearby streets.
Local historical preservationist Stephanie Rose has lived in the neighborhood for 31 years, owning several homes, which she and her husband Bill Bauer have rehabilitated in that time. Rose supports Price’s vision.
“I think the building is going downhill fast, and I think it’s pulling that section of the neighborhood down with it,” Rose said. “It’s like a sinking ship.”
Rose sees Idaho Falls’ numbered streets as having the potential to mirror the successfully revitalized Hyde Park neighborhood in Boise.
“I’m strongly in favor of the mixed-use traditional neighborhood. I think they are vibrant, and they are my favorite places to visit when we go to other cities,“ Rose said. “We need stores — little markets, cafes, cool bookstores. This city is ripe for all those things to happen.”
The building was originally built as a chapel for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1920s.
Afterwards, the building housed a dance studio, and the Cornerstone Assembly of God congregation. Most recently, Odyssey Charter School petitioned to move into the building, but that proposal was abandoned in March 2013.
Longtime 12th Street resident Betty Conrad said the proposed culinary arts school is a much better fit.
“For any of the neighbors I’ve talked to, the concept is great and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for it,” Conrad said. “Having somebody in there and having it renovated is better than having it empty and vandalized.”