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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Exterior, Sanctuary Of St. James Methodist Church In Kenwood To Be Preserved Amid Conversion To Apartments, Co-Working Spot

Residents raised concerns about the plan's impact on parking near the closed church at 4611 S. Ellis Ave.

Architect Nabil Zahrah shows an aerial photograph of the St. James United Methodist Church site, 4611 S. Ellis Ave.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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KENWOOD — Almost a decade after the St. James United Methodist Church said goodbye to its congregation, developers are preparing to submit plans to redevelop the building into apartments.

If the developers’ request to rezone the property at 4611 S. Ellis Ave. is approved, the church would be converted to 29 rental units.

That’s down from the 43 originally planned, according to owner Ibrahim Shihadeh, who cut back after seeing the “beauty” of the church’s sanctuary, chandeliers and stained glass.

Instead, the sanctuary will be restored to its original condition and used as a cooperative working space. Individual offices, long tables and cubicles would combine for a total of 15 co-working spaces.

Plans include three studio apartments, four one-bedrooms, 21 two-bedrooms and one three-bedroom unit. Washers and dryers will be included in every unit, and all except the lone third-floor unit will be accessible by elevator.

The developers have not yet filed the zoning change with the city, according to attorney Sara Barnes.

Nearly all of the planned renovations are to the interior, and about 75 percent of the exterior work has already been completed, architect Nabil Zahrah said.

If permits are granted, it would take 12 to 14 months of construction to complete the renovation, according to Shihadeh.

Ald. Sophia King (4th) hosted the developers as they gathered feedback at a community meeting Tuesday evening.

Parking was the main concern of the night, as numerous residents worried the 41 planned spots wouldn’t meet the demand of 29 units and a co-working space.

The developers indicated they would move forward with their plan for a landscaped, single-level lot, but were open to the possibility of adjusting the number of spaces.

King said parking concerns in the neighborhood are already on her radar, particularly along nearby Drexel Boulevard.

She’s planning to hold a meeting to jointly address those concerns and the ones raised about the St. James redevelopment. Details on that meeting are forthcoming.

In response to one resident’s concern, King said the parties could explore a covenant to ensure the developers don’t swap out the co-op space for a retail establishment a few years down the line.

Chicago law wouldn’t allow the developers to make such a change even if they wanted to, Barnes told the crowd.

Type 1 zoning changes don’t allow for old-time bait-and-switches,” she said. “This is tied directly to the plans that [residents] endorse and that the alderman supports. There would be no permit for any deviation from that.”

King said she was pleased with the group’s “good ideas” for reusing the old church building.

“I’m just happy that they want to preserve everything,” King said. “If we deal with the parking and get the blessing to go forward … the co-working space would be an enhancement to the community.”

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