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- - - IN THE NEWS - - -
Medical facility slated for vacant First Congregational Church
in historic neighborhood with rezoning
A vacant church property in a historic central Port Huron neighborhood is slated to become a multi-faceted medical facility in the coming months.
The property was purchased in August by Dr. Marwan Shuayto, a Port Huron neurology specialist who plans to move his nearby clinic to the former First Congregational Church, 1103 Seventh St.
“My current clinic is just a block and a half from this property, and even though I’ve been there for two years, we’ve actually outgrown it,” Shuayto told city officials earlier this week. His clinic, Michigan Neurology and Spine Center, is located at 615 Pine St., east of the old church property.
The property itself at two acres takes up an entire city block bound by Court, Wall, Eighth and Seventh streets and is located along historic Court Street and within the designated Olde Town historic neighborhood.
Shuayto’s plans for the two-story building, which currently includes office spaces, classrooms, a large kitchen, meeting rooms and a chapel that can seat 75 to 80, require an expansion. He said in addition to his clinic, a fixed MRI facility and surgical center would be located there. With the project now in the architectural phase, he said he hoped neighbors and city officials found comfort in his intent to match the current historical aesthetic.
“It is absolutely a stunning and gorgeous building, and the history in that building and that entire neighborhood — I actually love,” Shuayto said Monday. “… Even though we’re doing an expansion on that building, the historical look of that building will stay the same.”
Shuayto said he hoped the MRI facility would be in place by January 2021 and his clinic and the surgical clinic in 18 months. He said he planed to name it the Port Huron Surgical Center.
In addition to a dwindling congregation, the church previously housed the Center of Port Huron, an organization that worked with other social-service agencies and subleased space to establish a hub for neighborhood resources, including for the recovery community.
A rezoning request in 2019 to accommodate the activities of the then-growing nonprofit was rejected by officials. The Center and other agencies soon left the church.
David Haynes, Port Huron’s planning director, recapped that previous request during Monday’s City Council meeting, recalling nearby residents’ fear of the “infiltration of commercial property into the neighborhood.”
Another request now on the table for Shuayto’s proposal would rezone the property from single-family residential, as it’s zoned throughout Olde Town, to a medium density, multi-family residential district. A medical office would be allowed under city zoning rules. The rezoning request received its first of two readings before council Monday.
Haynes said the proposal garnered the wider support of planning commissioners earlier this month.
“By going this way with an A-1, they are allowed through a special-use process to create an office, and thereby, having a very limited scope as to what activities occur at this property,” he said. “Kind of safeguard the neighborhood — that you will not see an expanded use beyond this as to other commercial ventures.”
Councilwoman Anita Ashford called it “an enhancement for that location.”
“For me, it’s looking at a residential family home versus a big church that prior had a lot of other multi uses going on,” she said. “It just seems like an easy fit.”
Haynes added they’d heard of issues related to the church becoming vacant, such as vandalism, and were glad to be “seeing what the new life would be” with Shuayto’s proposal. “These large churches are very, very difficult to fill,” he said. “They’re very limited in their reuse.”
The First Congregational Church went on sale sometime in 2019. It was initially listed across multiple real estate sites with an asking price at $699,900 and later $425,000 by January 2020. According to the St. Clair County register of deeds, Shuayto purchased the property under Stone Street LLC for $100,000 in August this year.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or email@example.com.
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