LOGAN SQUARE — Last summer, the future of the century-old Logan Square Boys & Girls Club building was in doubt.
But thanks to the diligence of preservationists, neighbors and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), the historic building isn’t going anywhere.
A trio of developers is currently under contract to buy the historic building at 3228 W. Palmer St. Under their plans, the building would be preserved and converted into a 14-unit apartment complex with a parking lot in back.
At the request of the neighborhood group Logan Square Preservation, the developers have also agreed to establish a pocket park next to the building, which would be open to the public.
To accommodate the park, the developers are planning to tear down the annex building, built in the 1950s, to build a 12-space parking lot in back.
The main building would be carved into 10 two-bedroom apartments, two three-bedroom apartments and two one-bedroom apartments, though that mix could change as the project progresses, according to Christopher Dillon of Campbell Coyle Real Estate, one of the developers behind the project. The other two development partners are New Era Chicago and Ranquist Development Group.
The development team said rents will be determined closer to opening.
The project does not require a zoning change, and therefore does not need formal approval from Ald. Waguespack and neighbors, but the developers held a community meeting anyway.
Many of the nearly 25 residents who showed up to the meeting, held inside the Boys & Girls Club building Thursday evening, voiced support for the project.
“When I first heard that [the building] was going to be sold, I was terrified it was going to be knocked down,” longtime neighbor Chris Holden, 58, said.
“I’m very supportive [of the project]. Compared to what could happen. …. If [Ald.] Scott [Waguespack] wasn’t such a great alderman and didn’t work so well with us, and with Logan Square Preservation, there could’ve been a zoning change here It could’ve been torn down, and it could’ve been something a lot taller. They could’ve taken away all of the green space.”
The pocket park, offering about 1,650 square feet of public green space, drew an especially favorable response.
“It’s going to be an improvement because right now it’s a playground. It has rubber mats on it. Finding out that it’s going to be [a park] makes all of this better,” Holden said.
Originally, the developers wanted to put the parking lot where the park is now proposed. But Andrew Schneider, president of Logan Square Preservation, said that “felt off” to his group, given the history of the site, so they encouraged the developers to build a pocket park there instead. It took about seven months, but the developers ended up agreeing to do it.
At Thursday’s community meeting, Dillon and his development partners touted the park as part of what makes the project special.
“This is a way to deliver a community asset, owned by the community. We’re excited about that,” Dillon said. “This is a cool, unique model that can be carried forward with other projects.”
The development is also unique simply because of the building’s history. Built in the 1920s, the main building was originally home to Temple-Beth El’s community space. The Logan Square Boys & Girls Club took over the building in 1955 and went on to offer after-school programming, activities and services for 60 years at that location.
Dillon said his team is planning to preserve and restore the building’s original architecture, including its terrazzo floors and plaster detailing.
“These aren’t going to be vanilla, standard apartment units. We’re really trying to play up the fact that this is in a historic building,” Dillon said.
“The reality is you’re going to have to reinvest in a property like this. We’re viewing this as a reinvestment. This is going to be part of a portfolio we hope to own for a long time.”
The Logan Square Boys & Girls Club moved out of the building last summer because it couldn’t afford necessary — and costly — maintenance. There are also a lot fewer at-risk students and families in the area than there were when the club first moved in, Holly Allen, vice president of external affairs for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, told Block Club last summer.
At the time, neighbors and preservationists feared the organization’s departure would lead to the demolition of the building in favor of a large development. Addressing those fears, Waguespack rezoned the property to have more control over what was built there.
Waguespack, who also attended Thursday’s community meeting, said he’s pleased with the outcome.
“It’s a fabulous project,” the alderman said.
If all goes according to plan, the developers are aiming to start construction by the end of summer or early fall. Construction will take about 18 months.
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