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Burbank church displaced by Talaria project opens new doors

For the past 2½ years, Nick Reed, pastor of the City Light Baptist Church in Burbank, has stashed away a white cross that was once atop the steeple of the church on the corner of West Alameda Avenue and North Avon Street before the house of worship was demolished.

Having been displaced in 2015 by the Talaria project — a 241-unit apartment building under construction with a Whole Foods market to be on the ground level — Reed and his churchgoers have moved from venue to venue to practice their faith.

They were at Pickwick Gardens for about a year and then rented out space at the Burbank Adult School until they had to leave because there were too many people attending the services. Recently, the church held its services at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, Reed said.

However, he was finally able to dust off that cross a few days ago and bring it to its new permanent home at 1110 S. Victory Blvd., where it is mounted on a wall in the back of the stage in the new church’s sanctuary.

“That cross had hung [at the former church] for 50 years, and you could see that cross from the Warner Bros. lot and the Universal [Studios] lot,” Reed said. “For the past five decades, that cross had been the heart of the Media District.”

This past Sunday, Reed and many of his church members had a hanging-of-the-cross ceremony to prepare for the church’s grand opening on Nov. 19.

“The place erupted like it was the World Series,” Reed said. “It was awesome because that cross lost its home that it’s had for five decades. It’s not lifted above the Media District anymore, but it’s still here in a place of worship in Burbank.”

It has been a long road for Reed and City Light Baptist Church, which was formerly called Victory Baptist Church. Though he signed the lease for the building, which used to be a warehouse, back in December 2014, Reed said it took longer than he had anticipated for the new house of worship to be remodeled.

Reed said he had to go through the city’s lengthy development-review process, which took about nine months to complete. Although the location he selected had been zoned for a place of assembly, the property had to undergo a change of use from a warehouse to a church, he said.

After reaching out to residents in the Rancho district and undergoing the review process, Reed finally received approval from the city’s planning department to start construction in September 2015.

However, just a few months into the remodeling, construction had to come to a halt because the project was more expensive that Reed had originally anticipated. The building needed to meet seismic code standards, but the funding was initially not there.

Reed said it took a lot of fundraising to help pay for the project, which ultimately cost about $1 million.

That wasn’t the only money issue Reed and the church had to face. As he was trying to get the construction permit from the city, Reed was paying $12,500 per month to rent the church’s new building while also paying as much as $3,500 a Sunday to rent out a conference room at Pickwick to hold services.

“On a five-Sunday month, we were paying over $15,000 a month on top of the $12,500 for the building,” Reed said. “We also had offices and storage units, so we were paying around $29,000 a month just to operate.”

During that two-year transition period, the church’s membership began to drop. Reed said there were about 400 people attending services at the former church location, but attendance started to decrease during the church’s stints at Pickwick, the adult school and the equestrian center. He estimates membership declined to about 290 people.

Though it was tough seeing fewer people attend services, Reed said he understands why some people left and does not hold it against them.

The years of moving to different venues and remodeling the new building, Reed said, helped make the church stronger and more unified.

“We saw the church get chiseled away and watched a stronger core be formed,” he said.

The new house of worship, which is roughly 12,000 square feet, can hold up to 250 people in the main sanctuary. There are also rooms for parents to be with their infants and toddlers, as well as rooms for children and teens.

The hanging-of-the-cross ceremony this past Sunday was also the first time a church service was held in its new home. Reed said it was amazing to see the house of worship filled with people after going through years of constant movement.

“It’s the hardest thing that we’ve ever gone through,” Reed said. “I disconnected from society for the last four months to get this project done, and I’m so thankful to have this thing done.”

anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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