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Church of Scientology could be expanding in KC, church says restoration project is in final stages of planning

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Church of Scientology might be expanding its footprint here in Kansas City. Some speculate its newest real estate venture could become the Midwest hub for the controversial church.

Scientology currently calls a few small properties in Kansas City home, including one on E 39th Street. Signs out front say you can get a free IQ and personality test inside with no commitment necessary.

But it seems the church has bigger plans and commitments to expand its outreach in the nation's heartland. Back in 2007, it purchased the old City National Building at 18th & Grand in downtown Kansas City for $5,076,091.50. But the massive building with twin seven story towers joined by a two-story lobby, has stood vacant ever since.

Records show the Church of Scientology in Kansas City is connected to dozens of other company names. One of them is Grand Investments International, with a company president listed as Lee Shin, headquartered in the attached building at 1805 Grand Blvd. But that space appears empty and is closed off with an iron gate.

While the church has owned the building over a decade, it filed permits this summer to occupy the space and to inspect the property. But there's not been a single permit filed since to renovate the space, which is expected to be a massive undertaking.

The building is on the National Historic Registry, but is not on a local listing which would require more scrutiny for renovations. Plans do call for a restoration of the property in addition to a modern overhaul. But there's no public record of Scientology filing for local or state historic tax credits to help with the restoration.

But the church says it is moving forward with the project. In a statement to Fox-4 it said, "Our restoration project is in the final stages of planning."

The church did not elaborate on how it will use the space or when work could begin.

Project records from the Missouri Bid Network show the church has plans for a full gut job inside, to restore the building's historic exterior and create classrooms, a cafe, counseling rooms, chapel, theaters, and offices inside. In all, it could run a bill of over $10 million.

The church only said, "We are very excited about this building and what it means to our parishioners in Kansas City. We'll let you know when we have any official announcements about it."

The church has drawn controversy around the globe for its secrecy and the scores of former members who now speak out publicly against it. Its massive real estate sprawl surrounding its 'planet-wide spiritual headquarters' in Clearwater, Fla. has virtually taken over the city's downtown. Some of the spaces are occupied, while others have sat empty for years.

So now it's a waiting game to see if Scientology's followers will soon flock to Kansas City and what exactly will become of the towering historic building it owns here.