Detroit sues celebrity pastor and his ‘nuisance’ mega-church over unfinished Woodward project

The city wants to demolish Winans’ Perfecting Church if it’s not completed soon

Feb 28, 2023 at 11:06 am
click to enlarge A sign at Detroit’s 18-year Perfecting Church development shows expectations versus reality. - Lee DeVito
Lee DeVito
A sign at Detroit’s 18-year Perfecting Church development shows expectations versus reality.

The city of Detroit sued a pastor and his unfinished mega-church near Woodward Avenue and 7 Mile Road, saying the stalled development is “a massive example of blight and misuse of land.”

In the lawsuit filed last week in Wayne County Circuit Court, the city is asking a judge to declare the property a “nuisance” and order celebrity Pastor Marvin Winans to clean up the blight by April 3 and finish the construction of Perfecting Church, which began 18 years ago.

If Winans fails to accomplish both tasks, the city is urging a judge to transfer the property back to Detroit and allow the city to demolish the unfinished structure and sell the land.

According to the suit, the property is covered in overgrown vegetation and bound by dilapidated fencing and appears to be infested with rodents.

“The condition of the property directly threatens the health, safety, and welfare of neighboring residents and those who must pass the property when using public sidewalks and streets,” the lawsuit states.

In a statement to Metro Times, Winans said the lawsuit was a surprise.

“We are shocked and extremely disappointed that the city would take this course of action in the dark of the night, and in our opinion, not acting in good faith,” said Winans, a member of the famed gospel group, The Winans.

The city sold the land to the church for $13,000 in March 2005 with “the expectation” that it would be “fully developed,” the lawsuit states. At the time, church officials pledged to build a 4,200-seat church, 35,000-square-foot administration building, and a 1,000-space parking structure.

But the project has stalled, and the church hasn’t received any building permits since July 2015, according to the suit.

During an inspection in July 2022, the city spotted numerous violations, which church officials have failed to sufficiently address, the city alleges.

The property is “a public nuisance and danger to the safety and welfare of the public,” the suit states.

Winans countered that church officials addressed the violations.

“Perfecting Church has been in constant discussions with the City of Detroit, and we believed we are up-to-date in addressing all matters of concern posed by the city,” Winans said.

The city is asking a judge to order the church to hire an architect and construction manager by April 3 and prove that it has the finances to complete the project.

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