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Preservation Detroit to move into Temple Beth El

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Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Preservation Detroit has long called the David MacKenzie House home. But as Wayne State plans to move the house to expand its Gateway Performance Center, Preservation Detroit found itself looking for a new home for the first time. Now the community preservation group is moving into a gorgeous Albert Kahn-designed temple along Woodward Avenue.

Temple Beth El, now known as the Bethel Community Transformation Center, was home to Detroit’s first Jewish congregation. In recent years, it’s been used as a church and community space (we visited last year as the owners attempted a large crowdfunding campaign). The majestic building still needs restoration work, and BTCT has a three-phase plan for restoring the 55,000-square-foot space. Preservation Detroit will not only move their offices to the space, but they’ll be a part of the restoration efforts with tours and events.

“Preservation Detroit is committed to helping Detroiters save the places that matter to them,” said Eric Kehoe, president of the organization. “Our partnership with Bethel Community Transformation Center allows us to contribute to a multiracial, interfaith effort to revitalize a building and neighborhood that is a central part of Detroit’s story.”

Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard
Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

The sanctuary is the most striking part of the building, with soaring ceiling decorated with murals. But the building also has a social hall, kitchen, classrooms, offices, and learning centers. It’s also the home of the Detroit Phoenix Center, which helps youth experiencing or at risk for homelessness.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Preservation Detroit to our space,” said Pastor Aramis Hinds, executive director of BCTC and pastor of Breakers Covenant Church International. “I really believe this is going to be the place for reconciliation across socioeconomic, ethnic, religious walls. For more than 40 years, Preservation Detroit has helped preserve important sites in our city, and we’re excited to work on this next chapter together.”

Preservation Detroit, which originally raised $750,000 (in today’s money) to save the David MacKenzie House in the 1970’s, will help to reactivate the house after it moves.