Ypsilanti Township approves Burning Bush Church's plans to renovate ex-car dealership
Members of the Burning Bush Church of God could be worshiping at the former Carnahan Chevrolet in Ypsilanti Township as soon as December.
Church leaders are hoping to receive all necessary approvals from the township and start the building’s renovation within the next several weeks. The Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved the church’s site plans at its June 21 meeting, and the second reading will likely happen at the July 19 meeting.
Associate minister Kevin Reese said the building is in an ideal location because of its proximity and visibility to I-94 from 790 James L Hart Parkway, just west of Whittaker Road.
“Once you hit that Huron River Drive exit, there are two turns and you’re at our new location,” he said. “It is a prime spot with very easy access.
"Anytime you can get a church that has easy access from a highway without seven to eight turns, it’s a great opportunity. It’s also in an area on a side of town that will give us the chance to grow and bring more people into the body.”
Reese declined to say how many people are a part of the congregation, but site plans call for a sanctuary that can accommodate 900 people, and the plan was required by ordinance to have at least 300 parking spaces.
The former Carnahan is owned by the lender and has been on the market for about a year said John Hamway, the property’s listing agent from Signature Associates. It was listed for $1.8 million, or $66 per square foot for the 27,277 square foot building on 9.15 acres.
Reese said the congregation has steadily grown since Pastor Don Shelby established the church in his living room in Ypsilanti Township about 20 years ago. The church moved into its current Tyler Road location at the end of 2000, then rented the Willow Run High School auditorium as it continued expanding.
Burning Bush’s services recently moved back to the Tyler Road location as church leaders started saving money for purchasing the new building, Reese said. He attributed the church’s success to several factors.
Shelby and the church works with students on Eastern Michigan University and University of Michigan’s campuses, and Reese says many students continue involvement with Burning Bush after they graduate.
Reese said the ministry considers one another family, and stresses the importance of that aspect.
“One thing we say is ‘Family is everything,’” Reese said. “If my brother or sister is hurting, I do everything I can to help them get back on their feet. Everyone will help you move forward through whatever type of situation you’re going through.”
The church is also now scheduling services Saturday evening, early Sunday morning, mid-morning on Sunday and early Sunday evening.
“Pastor Shelby wants to have accommodating services that fit people’s schedule,” Reese said. “In this generation kids are involved this and that, AAU basketball, everything else, and schedules get crazy.”
Aside from work with its own members, Reese said the church is active in the surrounding community and cited a recent example of Burning Bush providing school supplies to area children.
“We’re not just going and opening a building - we come out and try to make an impact on the community,” he said.
The township won’t permit a daycare on the site because James L Hart is primarily an industrial area, and Burning Bush plans to add to the property’s landscaping.
Reese said the building will see a full makeover to change it from a car dealership to a comfortable place of worship. While the goal is to have the doors open by December, he said church leaders aren’t rushing the process.
"Pastor Shelby is the type of guy who wants excellent work done,” Reese said. “He wants it to look beautiful so when you’re coming off that freeway you say ‘Wow, that’s a beautiful place.’”
At the township’s June 21 meeting, Trustee Stan Eldridge praised the proposal and plans Burning Bush offered.
“Having this group here is a blessing to this community and will help everyone in the surrounding area,” he said.