GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A little piece of Grand Rapids history is getting a facelift.
Work began this week to update Eastown’s Uptown Church — the former Eastown Theater — on Lake Drive.
Crews are making sure the most visible example of the old building’s history, it’s façade, is preserved.
While the brick is being replaced on the outside, the memories made on the inside remain.
“The whole adventure, I think was one of the best times in our lives,” said Pastor Joan Trim, who, along with her husband, Bill Trim, turned the old theater into Uptown Assembly of God Church nearly 25 years ago.
“We opened this with 12 people in 1997. It holds (500 or 600) and we were getting pretty full,” said Pastor Emeritus Bill Trim of the church’s beginnings 24 years ago.
“We survived all economic stuff. We survived COVID. And that’s the tenacity of God’s people,” said Joan Trim.
The façade works as another reminder to the community both in and around the church of its continuing presence.
“It says to the church and the neighborhood: ‘We’re here to stay. We’re not going to sell it,’” said Bill Trim.
Opening in 1936 as the Eastown Theater, it wasn’t just the feature on the marque that filled the 1,000 seat theater — it was also air conditioned. Through the years different genres were featured on the marquee.
The theater closed in the 70’s, reopening in the early 80’s as an independent movie house.
It was a night club for a few years after that.
Then, in 1997, Uptown Church moved in. They added the brick work soon after.
These days it serves a new generation of Grand Rapidians with services held in English, Spanish and Swahili.
“So when we talk about bringing in the old to the new, this is part of it,” said Pastor Greg Amunga, who took over from the Trims about a year ago. “I believe that this right here is really representative of building relationships. People come by and they see the old. Now, they’ll see the new.”
Work includes taking apart the brick that has covered the front for several years.
Orion Construction is doing the work.
“It’s going to have a sunburst look to it, taking it a little bit back to the original look of the building,” said Orion President Brad Walsh.
The façade serves as a reminder of the building’s mission to the neighborhood.
“We’re bringing in the future. And what better way to bring in the future than with a face lift?” said Amunga.
The work should be completed by in a few weeks.