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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Wicker Park Soup Kitchen Would Become Apartments Under New Plan

Demand for the soup kitchen and social services has declined in the changing neighborhood, the center's executive director said.

A rendering of what the century-old building would look like if it were renovated and carved into 16 apartments.
Philip Casagrande/Casagrande Architects
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WICKER PARK — A developer plans to buy the Franciscan Outreach Association’s Marquard Center, a site that has served as a soup kitchen for more than 25 years, and turn it into apartments — if she can get a zoning change. 

Lakeview-based developer Anne Shutler aims to convert the building into a 16-unit apartment building. Shutler, architect Philip Casagrande and zoning attorney Nicholas Ftikas met with members of the Wicker Park Committee’s preservation and development subcommittee on Tuesday to present Shutler’s plan and ask the group to support the rezoning of the site. 

The six members of the Wicker Park group voted unanimously to support the zoning change to allow for the 16 apartments in the 3-story brick building at 1645 W. Le Moyne. The subcommittee’s chairman Paul Dickman said the group liked the fact Shutler will preserve and restore the facade of the building, which dates to 1904.

Next, the matter will go before the Wicker Park Committee’s main membership for a vote. Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) would need to approve the zoning change, as well as the City Council.

In a “preliminary meeting” with Hopkins, Ftikas said the alderman supports the plan, but also wants to make sure the soup kitchen can relocate to a new site. The Franciscan Outreach Association will profit off of the sale and with the money, the group will be able to relocate to a new site, according to Ftikas.

“Ald. Hopkins was thrilled to hear we are keeping the building. He did have a concern about the soup kitchen, where it would be going. Hopkins did not want this to be an issue where they were being forced out — and that is not the case,” Ftikas said.

A Hopkins spokesman said he was encouraged to see the broad consensus from the subcommittee and is awaiting a “full membership vote before making a final decision on the proposal.”

“As a preservation and landmark advocate, Alderman Hopkins agreed with the WPC that the preservation and restoration of this historic building’s façade is in keeping with the integrity of the beautiful Wicker Park neighborhood,” Christian Ficara said. 

“Finally, Alderman Hopkins is pleased that revenue generated from the sale will go toward enhancing the vital resources that Franciscan Outreach Association provides.”

Early Wednesday, Franciscan Outreach Association’s Executive Director Ed Jacob said it’s “unlikely” the soup kitchen will relocate in Wicker Park because most of its guests come from other neighborhoods.

Jacob said the sale to Shutler is expected to be finalized in the fall, and that as part of the deal, the center would stay on for another four months and rent from Shutler. They’ll leave at the end of January.

“It was important for us to stay for one more Christmas,” Jacob said.

The center’s soup kitchen, open from 5-6:30 p.m. daily, serves between 50-100 people every night, with higher numbers at the end of each month, Jacob said. During the day, the center provides social services and offers laundry and bathroom facilities for guests, many of whom are homeless.

Over the past few years, Jacob said the center has experienced about a 30 percent drop in a need for services and an increase in demand in other areas.

“The goal of this [sale] is to increase our investment in neighborhoods that really need our services,” Jacob said.

With money from the upcoming sale (Jacob and Shutler both declined to reveal the amount it’s under contract for) Jacob said at least $1 million will be used to make renovations to the association’s overnight shelter and health clinic on the West Side.

Marquard Center guest Hector Roman, who was formerly homeless, has been providing early morning building maintenance work at the center for the past four years. He’s pictured at the bottom of the century-old building’s original staircase with Franciscan Outreach Association’s executive director Ed Jacob. [Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago] 

The 270-bed overnight shelter at 2715 W. Harrison St. is located in any area “with much greater need than in Wicker Park,” Jacob said, adding, “It will allow us to serve our guests closer to where they are.” 

The apartment conversion plan calls for 16 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors, eight per floor, and 16 parking spaces on the first floor that would be accessible through a back alley. The subcommittee suggested replacing the bricks at the ground-level window openings with frosted windows to conceal the parking area, an idea that Shutler and Casagrande both embraced.

Rents would be $1,700 for a one-bedroom and $2,200 for a two-bedroom apartment. The units would range between 650 to 750 square feet.

There would be balconies along the west-facing side of the building, overlooking a courtyard shared with the neighboring First Bethlehem Evangelical Church, which previously used the building as a school.

County records show the church sold its school building to the Franciscan Outreach Association, then named St. Pascal Non-Profit Housing Association, in 1987 for $10.

The Franciscan Outreach Association’s Marquard Center at 1645 W. Le Moyne. [Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago] 

The century-old building is listed on the city’s Historic Resources Survey in connection with the church next door and is “orange rated,” meaning there would be a 3-month hold period on any demolition permits. The words “Ev. Lutherische Bethlehems Schule” are inscribed in stone at the top of the building. Schule is the German word for school. 

Casagrande, who will be restoring the building, said he’s not sure who the original architect was and often with projects from this era that fact is unknown.

“The existing building has some really great brick masonry detailing which we intend to preserve, including jack-arches and belt courses in a variety of colors. Some of the existing brick openings will be infilled with brick,” Casagrande said.

The courtyard between Marquard Center and First Bethlehem Lutheran Church. [Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago]