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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Historic Pilsen Church’s Towers Are ‘Perfect For Penthouse Units,’ Real Estate Listing Says

Despite protests to save the church, the archdiocese has once again put the Pilsen church up for sale.

St. Adalbert Church is located at 1650 W. 17th St. in Pilsen.
Leroyesha Lane/ Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — The Archdiocese of Chicago has once again put St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church up for sale, according to a commercial real estate listing that touts the church’s iconic towers as “perfect for penthouse units.”

 In the posting, SVN Chicago Commercial offers an overview of the 2.14-acre property at 1650 W. 17th St., which consists of four buildings — the sanctuary building, rectory, convent and school —  and “additional land for future development … or parking.”

The historic church “features beautiful architecture and twin 185-foot towers, perfect for penthouse units,” the posting read. By Wednesday morning, the “perfect for penthouse” language had been removed. 

No price has been determined but the sale is subject to offer, according to the listing.

Because of the St. Adalbert Church property’s location — just over a block from the CTA Pink Line’s 18th Street stop — the site could be redeveloped as a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project, “potentially allowing for increased density” and reduced required parking, the listing emphasizes. 

The site is also within walking distance to schools and the 18th Street retail corridor.

The updated listing described the church to be at the “heart of Chicago’s East Pilsen neighborhood. Within walking distance of the Illinois Medical District, the site has potential for “student housing or medical,” the post reads. 

Credit: SVN Commercial
A site plan accompanies the listing.

The archdiocese hired SVN Chicago Commercial earlier this summer to find a buyer for the iconic Pilsen church.

The archdiocese approved marketing material for the St. Adalbert property last week before the listing was posted online, said co-listing agent Angelo Labriola, vice president of SVN Commercial. 

The real estate agent said the property has already attracted “multiple interested parties” from “big names to no names,”  Labriola said. But no official offers have been made.

“Most likely it’ll take a few months to find a potential purchaser,”  he said.

The archdiocese plans to seek a range of potential buyers for the church property, archdiocese spokeswoman Anne Maselli said in July.

“Any decision regarding the future of the church and property will reflect the goals and needs of the parish and parishioners, the property’s architecture and history, its impact on the local community, and the viability of any new owner’s plans to address the significant costs necessary to repair and maintain the church and property,” Maselli said.

RELATED: In Pilsen, Churches Are More Than Sunday Mass — And Their Closures Are ‘Devastating’

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
St. Adalbert Catholic Church’s future is in limbo as parishioners wait for a decision by the Vatican’s highest court.

Earlier this summer, the Society of St. Adalbert, parishioners and members of Chicago’s Polish community attempted to raise pledges aimed at saving historic church.

The group — led by former board members of the St. Adalbert Preservation Society — wants to convert the convent at St. Adalbert into a bed and breakfast to fund costly tower repairs.

RELATED: Could A Plan To Convert St. Adalbert Convent Into A B&B Save Pilsen Church?

Society of St. Adalbert board member Julie Sawicki said the idea aims to keep the entire property together and keep the church as a religious shrine.

“We want to be sensitive to the existing community and do something that isn’t disruptive, fits with Pilsen and doesn’t shove condos and apartments down the neighborhood’s throat,” Sawicki added.

On Tuesday, Sawicki said she was “devastated” by the listing.

“My stomach turned when it happened,” she said.

Despite the church going back up for sale, Society of St. Adalbert still aims to convert the convent into a B&B, Sawicki said. The organization has the financial part of their plan worked out and will be meeting with the archdiocese to discuss the plan in detail, she said.

Credit: [Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago]
Society of St. Adalbert board member Julie Sawicki presents plan for B&B to the Polish community this summer.

Two-year battle to save St. Adalbert 

This is not the first time the archdiocese has tried to sell the St. Adalbert church building. In November 2016, the Archdiocese confirmed that the Chicago Academy of Music was under contract to buy the church property. That deal later fell through, Maselli confirmed to Block Club Chicago in June.

In February 2016, the archdiocese announced that St. Adalbert would close due to the more than $3 million in repairs needed to repair the church’s 185-foot towers, which have been surrounded by scaffolding for years.

Pilsen parishioners have promised to fight the closing of St. Adalbert to the end, and staged protests in an effort to persuade the archdiocese to keep the church open.  An appeal by the St. Adalbert Preservation Society, another group working to preserve the church, has since made its way to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, the Catholic Church’s highest court.

In the appeal, the group argued the archdiocese’s planned sale of the church to Chicago Academy of Music violated canon law, while also arguing the parish maintained a strong community with no financial problems.

In June, St. Adalbert Preservation Society spokeswoman Blanca Torres told Block Club Chicago that she fears the Vatican will back the archdiocese’s decision and St. Adalbert’s will close. The church closing will have a resounding impact on the neighborhood and further fuel the changes affecting Pilsen, she said. 

“To me, it’s very telling that both the consolidation of the churches and gentrification is happening at the same time,” said Torres, who lives a few blocks from the church. “If [the churches] go away, the uniqueness of Pilsen gets lost.”

Credit: Stephanie Lulay/ DNAinfo
St. Adalbert parishioners protest the closing of the church in February 2017.

Despite a huge donation received in March 2016, Catholic officials said the church would still close. The donation wasn’t enough to offset future maintenance costs and didn’t address the declining number of Catholic parishioners in Pilsen. 

While the donation to the church from a deceased parishioner was thought to have been worth $3 million, the actual value of the donation, made in stocks, ended up being less, archdiocese officials said at the time that the donation would cover “less than half” of the repairs needed.

The move to close St. Adalbert is part of the archdiocese of Chicago’s larger plan to reconfigure six Catholic churches in Pilsen into three, closing multiple churches in the process.

The archdiocese has cited changing demographics, low Mass attendance and a decline in the number of priests as reasons for the reconfiguration.

RELATED: Parishioners Mourn ‘End Of An Era’ As They Say Farewell To St. Ann Church In Pilsen

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