LOGAN SQUARE — The nearly 110-year-old Grace United Methodist Church will soon hit the market at an asking price of $1.59 million.
Eric Rojas of Kale Realty, the church’s broker, said he expects the listing to go up sometime next week.
The move to sell marks the end of a years-long debate between church leaders, preservationists and neighbors over the future of the struggling congregation.
Like other churches in the neighborhood and across the city, Grace United Methodist Church, at the corner of Wrightwood and Kimball avenues, has been suffering financially due to years of deferred maintenance and shrinking membership.
Church leaders have been talking about the possibility of selling the church for years.
In 2017, the leaders devised a plan to tear down part of the building and build apartments on the land, but that plan never advanced.
“They couldn’t find a partner. It wasn’t feasible,” Rojas said.
Preservationists were against that plan. They argued the church is an irreplaceable fixture in the community, which shouldn’t be replaced — even partially — with a new apartment building.
Other neighbors agreed, saying they didn’t want to see a developer swoop in and replace the church with luxury housing.
Empty churches are being converted into high-end homes and arts venues all over the city. In Logan Square, the former Evangelical church at Kimball and Wrightwood avenues was converted into an elite circus school and an 1880s-era church at 2445 W. Washtenaw Ave. was converted into a home.
Last fall, church leaders at Grace assembled a “building assessment team” to vote on whether or not to sell the church in its entirety. The group said for 15 years they had explored possible solutions that would’ve allowed them to stay, but nothing had ever materialized.
Now, by putting up the church building at 3325 W. Wrightwood Ave. for sale, the church leaders are letting the new owners decide what to do with the site.
“They’ve been thinking about this for a long time and reviewing lots of options,” Rojas said of the decision.
The church isn’t so historically significant that it’s protected from demolition, but Rojas said both the church leaders and preservationists want to see the building remain in tact. Many are hoping another church or organization will simply move in.
“Everyone would like to see [the church] be reused. That’s what we hope for, but I couldn’t tell you ultimately what will happen,” Rojas said.
It’s possible a developer could buy the church, tear it down and build beyond the current zoning parameters, but that developer would first need a zoning change, and approval from Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and the community, which could be difficult to secure given how many in the area favor a reuse project.
Ramirez-Rosa stands with preservationists on the issue. Last year, he told Block Club, “I personally love our historic churches. If I were an individual attending my own community meeting, I would be pushing for the preservation for the church.”
Grace United Methodist Church was the first English-speaking church in the neighborhood when it was established in 1904.
The congregation tore down the original building and constructed the current building in 1910. The church added an addition with classrooms, a gymnasium and a meeting area in 1925.
During the white flight of the 1950s and ’60s, the church lost many of its members as neighborhood demographics shifted heavily toward a majority-Latino population, according to former pastor Mark Schol.
“Going into the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s our church continued to shrink because we weren’t able to reach out to the community like we wanted to,” Schol previously said.
Selling would allow the church community find a new home in the neighborhood, a place to grow their membership, church leaders have argued.
“The one asset we have as a poor old church is that we happen to have some land,” church member Colin Taylor said at a community meeting in 2017.
According to Rojas, the addition, built in 1925, is not for sale — only the church building itself is. Rojas said the addition is owned by the church, but wasn’t able to provide further explanation.
Attempts to reach church leaders were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Check out more photos of the church:
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