LOGAN SQUARE — A new plan to convert the Humboldt Park United Methodist Church into an all-affordable housing project is gaining momentum.
Church leaders have teamed up with affordable housing developer LUCHA on the effort to transform the 92-year-old church at 2122 N. Mozart St. into a 22-unit affordable housing complex. If everything goes according to plan, construction would begin next summer.
The deal would mean relocating the congregation away from the corner of Mozart Street and Shakespeare Avenue for the first time in nearly a century, but it would also bring more affordable housing to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
“We as a congregation have lost our Latinx families who have been displaced out of this neighborhood through the evils of gentrification,” Paula Cripps-Vallejo, Humboldt Park United Methodist Church’s reverend, said at a virtual community meeting Monday evening.
“Our church council made the decision to sell to someone who would maintain our current affordable housing work.”
The church houses 12 affordable apartments managed by the congregation. LUCHA wants to renovate the existing apartments and convert the church’s sanctuary and fellowship space into 10 more apartments for a total of 22 units. To do that, the developer needs a zoning change.
The apartments — a mix of studios and one-, two- and three-bedrooms — would only be available to renters who meet the city’s requirements under the Affordable Requirements Ordinance. Green space would be added to the right side of the building for families to enjoy.
Under LUCHA’s plan, the church’s exterior — save for a few windows — would remain as-is and only the interior would be renovated.
As church leaders set out to sell the building, they chose LUCHA because of the organization’s reputation for building and maintaining affordable housing. Church leaders said it was important those affordable apartments remain in the next chapter for the building.
“We’re only willing to let the building go if we know we won’t contribute to the forces of gentrification that are displacing Black and Brown people,” Cripps-Vallejo said.
Leaders of LUCHA, an organization that has been building affordable housing since 1982, said it aims to keep all of the existing tenants in the building and help them temporarily relocate during construction.
“In spirit, we’re trying to end up with a building where there’s very little sense of change in the sense of the history and the capturing of the time the building has had as a place of worship, of gathering … of housing and opportunity,” said Jaime Torres Carmona, principal and founder of the architecture firm Canopy, which is designing the project.
If the plan is realized, it will be the first time in nearly 100 years the church won’t serve as a religious hub.
The church has been an anchor in the community since 1928, when it was built for a German congregation. Decades later, white flight changed the church’s demographics. And in 1968, the church became home to the Spanish-speaking Humboldt Park United Methodist congregation, a merger with the original congregation the church was built for, Cripps-Vallejo said.
Since its founding, the Humboldt Park United Methodist Church has worked to help people in need. For decades, the congregation has offered free counseling and support to victims of domestic violence, as well as free legal aid to immigrants.
The congregation launched an outreach ministry called Humboldt Park Social Services in 1989 to help residents experiencing homelessness. The ministry later became the Center for Changing Lives and moved into its own building in Logan Square.
The housing project is still a long way from fruition. Church leaders and the development team are soliciting community feedback on the proposal.
LUCHA is hoping to apply for a zoning change in October, then work to secure the necessary financing for the project, which will require a patchwork of public funding sources, the development team said.
The project has the support of Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), whose ward includes the church.
“I think it’s a really special project. I think so much of the time what happens to these older churches is they get converted to luxury condos,” La Spata previously said.
“To have a church building that is telling such a different story, where it’s going to be functioning in the future as housing for working families and individuals at risk of displacement from our community — that’s a special thing.”
Some neighbors said Monday they support the plan, while others raised concerns about construction, financing and the unit mix, among other things.
The church would be under construction for about a year beginning next summer and leasing would start the following year. Cripps-Vallejo said the congregation hopes to find a home in the neighborhood that better suits its needs.
“Even though the church is [about] the people, and not the building, we understand the importance of having a sacred space to call home, and we will be looking for a new church home when the timing is right,” Cripps-Vallejo said.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.