PILSEN — The developer under contract to buy the historic St. Adalbert Church property plans to work with Pilsen neighbors and Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) to return the beloved former church to “public and accessible use,” the company announced Tuesday.
City Pads Chicago plans to restore the former sanctuary and iconic twin towers in the church at 1650 W. 17th St. and have an “open dialogue” with neighbors on future uses for the church.
No housing will be built in the former sanctuary building, the company vowed. But the developer does aim to build co-living apartments in a new building on the 2.1-acre site just east of the convent and will rehab existing buildings — which include the rectory and convent — to make way for studio, one-bedroom and “family-sized apartments.”
In a written statement, City Pads owners said the new development will include “more than 20 percent affordable family housing on-site.”
Acero School, also located on the church property, will continue operating on the site and will have exclusive use of the open space behind the school, City Pads officials said.
Andy Ahitow, managing principal of City Pads, declined to answer other questions about their plans for the site, including how many units would be built, when the project would break ground or when the church building could reopen to the public.
“When we found out this historic church was at risk of being torn down we just knew we had to come in and save it,” Ahitow said in a statement. “Our hope is to restore both the sanctuary and towers so that the community will be able to enjoy this space which has been so important to the neighborhood for over a century.”
On Monday, Block Club was first to report that City Pads was under contract to purchase the property from the Archdiocese of Chicago for $4 million. City Pads plans to close the deal in the fall, company officials said.
The pending sale follows a years-long battle Mexican and Polish parishioners have waged in an effort to save the St. Adalbert Church from being closed and sold. In 2016, the archdiocese first announced it would close the church as they moved to consolidate six Pilsen churches into three.
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St. Adalbert Church is located in the heart of Pilsen, a changing neighborhood on the city’s Southwest Side. The parish was founded in 1874 by Polish immigrants and the current church building was built in 1912.
Ald. Sigcho-Lopez introduced an ordinance to change the site’s zoning to block new development in July. The site is currently zoned for multi-unit dwelling units. If approved, the new zoning for the site would only allow for parks and open space, a tactic meant to tie the archdiocese’s hands.
The alderman pushed for new zoning after the archdiocese failed to involve community members and parishioners on the future plans for the 2-acre property, he said.
The proposed zoning change was not considered in the Committee on Zoning’s meeting Tuesday; Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who chairs the committee, did not put the proposal on the agenda for the consideration.
Sigcho-Lopez is talking over the proposed zoning change with the city’s Department of Planning and Development, Tunney said. Pursuant to his wishes, Tunney said he will schedule the item to be considered.
“I’m here for the alderman,” Tunney said.
After that meeting, Sigcho-Lopez said he wants to ensure any plans for the site have buy-in from the neighborhood, he said.
The archdiocese has “pushed their perspective without listening to residents and parishioners,” the alderman said, picking a developer who “doesn’t have a good track record” with the community.
In 2017, City Pads sparked outrage in Pilsen after painting over the Casa Aztlan mural, a mural that was more than 45 years old, DNAinfo reported. After facing backlash, City Pads brought back original artist Ray Patlan to paint a new mural.
City Pads may have learned their mistake, but actions speak louder than words, Sigcho-Lopez told The Daily Line. He plans to ask Tunney to push the measure forward at the committee’s October meeting.
Earlier this summer, the archdiocese announced the church would hold its final service on July 14. The following day, the church ceased to be a “sacred space and may not be used for worship,” archdiocese officials said in a statement.
In September 2018, the archdiocese hired SVN Chicago Commercial to sell the property. A commercial real estate listing at the time touted the church’s iconic towers as “perfect for penthouse units.”
On Monday, Anne Maseli, a spokeswoman with the Archdiocese of Chicago, confirmed the church property is under contract to be sold to City Pads. The developer was selected based on their experience in the community and because they “understand the needs of the community and the goals of local officials and neighborhood groups,” Maseli said.
“The potential reuse of the property will be respectful of the property’s history, the property’s place as a previously sacred space, the desires of the parish and of the community,” Maseli said. “Not only will the community benefit from a new and revitalized space, but the remaining combined parish of St. Paul/St. Adalbert will benefit from the necessary additional funding to support the parish’s mission and social outreach.”
Maseli said City Pads plans to engage with local residents, elected officials and leaders to solicit feedback “at the appropriate time.”
In an email, Maseli acknowledged the “difficult decision to close St. Adalbert” because it was an anchor in the Pilsen community but said the congregation was too small support “substantial annual operating costs” of the church property.
In addition to declining mass attendance, the St. Adalbert Church building, including its twin towers, have significant structural issues that would require millions of dollars to repair, Maseli said.
Julie Sawicki, the society’s president, who was first made aware of the pending sale late last month, said the archdiocese’s decision to enter into a contract with City Pads was “disappointing.”
City Pads is currently constructing a 59 apartment co-living building at 1407 W. 15th St. on the south end of Addams/Medill Park just north of the Pilsen border, according to Curbed Chicago. Rent for a room in a shared apartment is expected to start at $975 per month when it opens in 2020, according to Chicago magazine.
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