Scientology speaks! Church indicates it doesn’t plan to sell its building on Grand Boulevard

Last week I got a tip about how the Church of Scientology was planning to sell the building it bought in 2007 at 1801 Grand.

It was a tantalizing piece of news because this newspaper for years has wondered when Scientology was going to get around to doing something with the City National Bank building. Since buying the building — one in which UMB Bank got its start— in 2007, there have been few, if any, signs of activity at the building. Meanwhile, it pays no property taxes — an exception being taxes earmarked for the streetcar — because it’s supposedly being used for religious purposes.

It’s a cool building in a prime area of real estate. I’ve heard there’s a neat bank vault in the basement and that the bank lobby on the ground floor makes for a beautiful entrance.

I called around to see if anyone else had heard the same information and learned that some knowledgable people were aware of the rumor.

Efforts over the years to get Scientology to provide detail about what they plan to do with 1801 Grand have been met with silence.

Until Tuesday! I reached out to the public affairs operation at the Church of Scientology once again to relay the tip I’d gotten and to see if it would confirm. Their response was vague and suggested that Scientology doesn’t plan to put the building on the market.

“The local Church is still engaged in fundraising for the completion of its new Ideal Church of Scientology and the expansion of the Church’s activities Kansas City,” reads an e-mail response to The Pitch from Scientology’s media relations department.

OK. That’s been going on for nearly nine years. Does the church have a timeline for wrapping things up?

“We are not prepared to make a statement on that yet, but we will let you and the other media know when we do,” reads a followup response.

So there you have it. Scientology says it’s still in fundraising mode in Kansas City.

It’s worth remembering that Scientology isn’t always too forthright about itself. The church’s account of the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is riddled with questionable and unverifiable claims. The church was also famously caught by investigative journalist Lawrence Wright fabricating evidence to support Hubbard’s military records in a lengthy story published in the New Yorker in 2011. (Wright would later publish a book about Scientology called Going Clear, which was later adapted into an HBO documentary by the same name.)

So one could accept Scientology’s claims about its plans for 1801 Grand at face value. But one also shouldn’t be surprised if a “for sale” sign pops up on the building later on. 

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