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The Mormon church has leased 5,000 square feet at 1603 Union for a Midtown chapel
Tom Bailey/The Commercial Appeal

 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has found a spot after searching the heart of Memphis for a worship site to rent.

The Mormon Church — its better known, informal name — has signed a five-year lease for 5,000 square feet in the middle of Midtown, at 1603 Union.

That’s in the worn, half-empty strip shopping center that fronts Union from Avalon to Rozelle and appears to have an uncertain future. Six of about 20 bays are empty in the center owned by two different entities.

The Mormons are awaiting a building permit to renovate a vacant space last occupied by a Rent-A-Center store. The project will cost $90,000, not including furnishings, the permit application estimates.

“It’s right in the center of the area we want to serve and we were able to find space large enough to do what we wanted to do,” said C.E. Zobell, president of the church’s Memphis North Stake. The district stretches from the Missouri Bootheel to near Brinkley, Arkansas on the west and most of West Tennessee to the east.

The Mormons have nine worship centers or chapels in the Memphis North Stake, but the closest to the center of town is north of the I-240 loop in Frayser.

“We have found our membership within the Memphis loop is having some difficulty getting to our other buildings,” Zobell said. “So our intent is to take the church to the people.”

Zobell is a lawyer who volunteers his time and efforts to lead the Mormon district.

The Midtown chapel generally will host a three-hour block of worship, Sunday school and other…