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After Demolishing Century-Old Near West Side Church, Billionaire Couple’s Firm Aims To Build Offices For Nonprofits

Despite efforts to save the old St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church, a firm managed by billionaires Steve and Jessica Sarowitz is redeveloping the site to house community service businesses and nonprofit collaborations.

Highland Park developer 4S Bay Partners LLC is demolishing the old St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church to make way for a 5-story building at the site near Addams/Medill Park.
Courtesy of Nick Anderson
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NEAR WEST SIDE — After demolishing a century-old church on the Near West Side, a developer aims to build an office building in its place.  

Highland Park-based developer 4S Bay Partners plans to build the five-story office building near Addams/Medill Park at the site that housed the old St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church, 1319-1325 S. Ashland Ave., according to a newly filed zoning application.

Under plans, the building would include 39,256 square feet of office space and 3,875 square feet of ground-floor retail, according to paperwork filed with the city.

The building would house community service businesses and nonprofit collaboration space, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The plan would also include an outdoor rooftop garden. The building would include four underground parking spots and one loading berth.

Billionaires Steve and Jessica Sarowitz manage 4S Bay Partners. The couple recently helped buy a building for the Chatham Workforce Center.

Steve Sarowitz made his fortune as founder of software company Paylocity, and the couple founded Highland Park-based Julian Grace Foundation.

Bauer Latoza designed the building.

The developer and their attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The zoning application comes as the developer completes its teardown of the church.

RELATED: Century-Old St. Stephenson Church Slated To Be Demolished On Near West Side

Credit: Courtesy of Nick Anderson
Highland Park developer 4S Bay Partners LLC is demolishing the old St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church to make way for a 5-story building at the site near Addams/Medill Park.
St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist ChurchCredit: Courtesy of Nick Anderson
Highland Park developer 4S Bay Partners LLC is demolishing the old St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church to make way for a 5-story building at the site near Addams/Medill Park.

Preservationists and city officials attempted to save the St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church, which had served as home to several congregations over the years, according to city records.

A city-mandated 90-day demolition delay was imposed on the project last year, but it expired before the end of the year.

Last fall, the Maxwell Street Foundation urged city officials to “broker an agreement with the developer” to at least save the façades for preservation and reuse before a granting a demolition permit.

Credit: Matt Wicklund
St. Stephenson Church, 1319 S. Ashland Ave., is slated to be demolished. Credit: Matt Wicklund
Credit: Matt Wicklund
St. Stephenson Church, 1319 S. Ashland Ave., is slated to be demolished

The church, built by Theodore Duesing, was previously home to the Second German Evangelical Zion Church, according to the Maxwell Street Foundation.

“This building has significance for our group because this was the church built by a German congregation when they vacated a German church and school in the old Maxwell Street area, the history of which we protect and interpret,” foundation secretary Laura Kamedulski wrote in a letter to the city. “This is a time-sensitive matter as demolition is imminent.”

Credit: Courtesy of Nick Anderson
Highland Park developer 4S Bay Partners LLC is demolishing the old St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church to make way for a 5-story building at the site near Addams/Medill Park.

Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox encouraged the new owners to explore reuse of the church building instead of demolition, according to city records.

During and after the demo-hold period, city officials discussed reusing parts of the church with the developer, a spokesman for the city’s Planning and Development department spokesman previously told Block Club. Officials pointed to the Epiphany Center for the Arts and St. Boniface Church as examples of adaptive reuse, according to city records.

Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago executive director, hoped the developer would’ve worked to at least preserve the Ashland-facing façade of the church and incorporate the project into the development.

The loss of another century-old building underscores the need for an ordinance to better protect buildings more than 50 years old, Miller said.

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