The old High Street Christian Church in downtown Akron once slated to be demolished to make way for a hotel will be reborn as a church.

After seven years on the market, the 62-year-old building was sold to a local nondenominational Christian church called Burning Bush.

The 500-member congregation hopes to begin gathering for services at the blocky, red-brick building at 131 S. High St. in late summer.

We are so excited, Burning Bush operations manager Randi Bibbs said of the congregation that dates to 2004. I think back to the beginning of the ministry with eight people meeting in a house and to now grow and have a church downtown.

God wanted us to continue his work on High Street, she said.

She said the churchs pastor, the Rev. DeJuan Kelker, has long wanted a centrally located facility, and one that can easily fit the congregation.

Burning Bush now meets in a former Salvation Army facility at 1104 Johnston St., off South Arlington Street, southeast of downtown, where parking can be tight.

Downtown, members will be able to park in a nearby, city-owned deck.

Bibbs described the church as a church for the unchurched. She said its family-friendly services attract both whites and blacks.

Burning Bush paid $500,000 for the church, according to Summit County property tax records. The tax records list the appraised value at $500,000.

The 50,000-square-foot building, near Akron City Hall, was built in 1955 and extensively remodeled following a fire in 1977, according to Jennifer Fernandez, with NAI Cummins Real Estate, who brokered the sale.

Selling the property was the High Street Christian Church congregation that moved to Green in 2012 amid a decline in the number of worshippers.

That congregation has changed its name to Harmony Springs Christian Church. It meets at the Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health & Wellness Center at 1940 Town Park Blvd., off Massillon Road.

The Harmony Springs congregation plans to construct a church building on more than 9.2 acres that it purchased in the Spring Hill development off Arlington Road between Boettler Road and East Turkeyfoot Lake Road (state Route 619).

Burning Bush Church began as an eight-person home church in Barberton in 2004 and was initially led by Pastor Jocelyn Kelker, Bibbs said.

The congregation then called The Upper Room began meeting at a storefront south of downtown.

In 2006, Kelkers son, DeJuan, was confirmed as the senior pastor. His wife, Stacey Kelker, is co-pastor. Jocelyn Kelker died in 2007.

To accommodate its growth, the congregation moved a few more times in Akron before buying the old Salvation Army building on Johnston Street about four years ago. That property is now listed for sale.

At the High Street building, Burning Bush will continue to offer two services one on Sunday morning and one on Wednesday night. The churchs day care center will move from Johnston Street to High Street.

Change of plans

Fernandez, with NAI Cummins, said that in addition to the group that proposed tearing the High Street building down to make way for a hotel, the building had been looked at by other churches, as well as a local developer who considered putting a medical facility on the site.

The plan to tear down High Street Church for a hotel was revealed at a news conference in July 2013. Local investors and officials with Amerimar Realty of Philadelphia said they had teamed up to bring a 160-room hotel to the site near the John S. Knight convention center. But the project fell apart after Amerimar dropped out.

The plan called for a hotel restaurant and meeting facilities to be constructed in the city-owned historical Greystone building nearby. Plans called for an atrium to connect the two properties. At the time, area developer Joel Testa was saying he was close to breaking ground on a Courtyard by Marriott next to lofts that Testa Cos. of Cuyahoga Falls developed in Akrons Northside District. That hotel the first new hotel to open downtown in 40 years opened last year.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her@KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at www.facebook.com.