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Neighborhood housing coalition hopes to save historic Walnut Street Baptist Church

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – You won’t find a Sunday service at the Walnut St Baptist Church. In fact, no one has for nearly a decade.

“It’s been a staple in this neighborhood for literally over 100 years,” said Ali Parrish, the Executive Director for Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity who, on behalf of an investor, purchased the Walnut Street Baptist Church for about $40,000.

The last congregation left roughly 2009 leaving behind hymnals, files, furniture, and more. All of this just representing the history of the church which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Walnut Neighborhood Housing Coalition hopes to not only save the building but its history.

“When the residents identified the history of this neighbor as being an asset in this neighborhood, was the first step to even a conversation as to what structures need to be preserved,” said Parrish.

The coalition is made up of several parties including Habitat for Humanity, Waterloo’s Community Development, and residents within the neighborhood.

“We always had concern for what was going to happen to this space,” said Judy Marshall, a resident in the community as well as a pastor at the Harvest Vineyard Church adjacent to Walnut Street Baptist.

When the coalition polled the neighborhood they found two concerns: housing and preservation.

“This coalition and these partnerships that are happening, we’re addressing housing and jobs and just neighboring, being a good neighbor,” said Laura Hoy, the Walnut Neighborhood Association President and member of the coalition.

The revitalization is all part of a holistic approach.

“What goes around comes around, and i think we’re coming full circle with the development of it’s neighborhood,” said Waterloo Community Development Director Rudy Jones, who coincidentally was married at the church.

The biggest question though is still unanswered. What’s the church going to be once its revitalized?

“We really, really want to hear from our community. What the needs are? What the possibilities are? So that’s why we don’t have an answer of what it will be, but we believe the community does,” said Hoy.

There have been a number of revitalization projects in the last few years in that neighborhood. Now that they have ownership of the building, the next step is securing funding for the work that needs done.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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