PILSEN — In an effort to preserve Pilsen’s historic St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) is looking to make the church and another building on the 2.1 acre property city landmarks.
In a letter submitted to the city on Sept. 27, Sigcho-Lopez called for the Department of Planning and Development to immediately begin the landmark designation process for the former church at 1650 W. 17th Street and the rectory at 1636 W. 17th Street.
The freshman alderman is calling for the exterior facades, towers, interior sanctuary and the rectory building to receive landmark status. The former sanctuary and rectory was designed by renowned church architect Henry Schlacks.
“This designation process should begin immediately, noting that the church is now closed; and is no longer subject to a religious consent ordinance to landmarking, as its current owner, the Archdiocese of Chicago, has deconsecrated it,” the alderman said in his letter.
The archdiocese held its final service on July 14, and the church was deconsecrated the following day.
After that service, Sigcho-Lopez said he would explore the possible designation of St. Adalbert as a historic landmark.
“We will work with you to honor the site for what it represents. This is a sanctuary. This is a landmark,” Sigcho-Lopez at a press conference after the final mass.
Last month, Block Club reported that a developer was under contract to buy the church property for $4 million. City Pads plans to close the deal in the fall, company officials said.
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.”
The Sun-Times first reported Sigcho-Lopez’s plan for the designation.
A CityPads spokesperson said the company was in support of the alderman’s move to have the church landmarked, calling the former sanctuary “a treasure…worthy of landmark protection.
“City Pads will work with the Alderman as well as the Pilsen community and will invest significant resources to restore the church and its towers,” the spokesperson said in an email.
“We are also committed to finding public and beneficial use for the church that keeps the building available to the community.”
The company vowed to provide up to 90 new homes on the adjoining properties, including two and three bedrooms for families, and “approximately 30 percent” affordable units.
The alderman previously introduced an ordinance to change the site’s zoning 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 prevent the archdiocese from selling it to a developer that wants to turn it into condos or apartments.
Sigcho-Lopez said the move is to ensure the future of the site has community input.
The ordinance has yet to be introduced before the Committee on Zoning.
For three years, Polish and Mexican parishioners of the church have fought and petitioned to save the church.
Society of St. Adalbert president Julie Sawicki lauded Sigcho-Lopez’s decision to seek landmark status for the property.
“We finally have an alderman with the political will to fight for the parishioners and community needs,” Sawicki said.
The landmark designation would protect a historically significant building and the cultural roots of the community, Sawicki said.
Blanca Torres, who has been fighting as part of the St. Adalbert Preservation Society, said as a parishioner and a community member she wished to see the church become a landmark to preserve and protect the legacy of the building.
Torres previously called for the Pilsen Landmark District to be extended to include the St. Adalbert church property.
Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, has been working alongside the Polish and Latino community for five years has encouraged the archdiocese to seek a historic landmark for St. Adalbert to preserve the interior and exterior of the Pilsen church.
He expressed his frustration with a 1987 ordinance that prevented the church to be landmarked sooner.
Miller said St. Adalbert was “a vital part of the community…and magnificent architecturally significant structure” that deserved to be preserved.
The Archdiocese of Chicago declined to comment.
Read the Alderman’s letter below:
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