LINCOLN PARK — A proposal to convert a 120-year-old Lincoln Park church into a seven-story apartment building cleared a key City Council committee Tuesday despite opposition from neighbors.
The city’s Zoning Committee voted to approve the development’s plans, which include renovating the Second Church of Christ Scientist at 2700 N. Pine Grove Ave. by adding a new, seven-story tower with 26 apartments and 30 parking spaces, an attorney for the church said at during the online meeting.
But neighbors in the four-and-a-half-story condominium building across the street from the church opposed the project, claiming it would lower their property values by obscuring west-facing views, exacerbate street traffic on the residential block and demolish the church’s architectural character.
The church’s renovation includes downsizing the building while maintaining the original front, east and west sides of the building, the church’s attorney said.
Behind the church, a seven-story, 26-unit apartment structure will be built with below-ground and ground-level parking spaces.
But Merrill Goozner, a property owner in a building across the street to the east, said the new structure was too big, and that the community needed more time to evaluate the development’s affect on the area before any decision could be made.
“We are asking you to postpone your decision until you receive studies showing how such a project will affect light and shadows on all units east, north and west of the church property,” Goozner said.
He said he was speaking on behalf of six property owners in his building who opposed the current design and had sent a letter of opposition to the Zoning Committee last month.
“In brief, the proposed development will reduce our property values by eliminating our western views and more than half of our daytime sunlight,” Goozner said. “Do to limited setbacks, it will also create a canyon-like atmosphere at street-level.”
Goozner added that Pine Grove Avenue is a “narrow, residential street” that’s already “frequently blocked by commercial vehicles.”
He said adding the 30-space parking lot would exacerbate congestion on the block and that the church’s deal with the city to reserve local street parking for members during church activities would “penalize existing residents.”
Goozner also lamented that the church’s renovation would eliminate its dome and sanctuary, which he said are the building’s main features with “architectural significance.”
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), whose ward encompasses the church’s site, supported the project, saying the proposal came after a “several-year community process” to finally reach a “good compromise” with its developers.
She added that the church’s congregation has “dwindled” over the years, and it needed to downsize to keep operating. This was the best proposal that supports its smaller scale while still maintaining the church’s architectural features, Smith said.
“The front foyer is going to be retained … and reused for the actual worship area and office area for the church,” Smith said. “What will be lost is the dome of the church because that’s going to be reconfigured into apartments.”
“So from the street level, it won’t be very different,” she added.
All members of the Zoning Committee voted in favor of the renovation, except for Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who didn’t explain the reason for his “no” vote.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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