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After Months Of ‘Radio Silence,’ Developer Back To Square One After Ravenswood Neighbors Reject Plan To Turn Church Into Apartments

Developers unveiled their proposal for Philadelphia Romanian Church of God months ago. Then there was no news or response to neighbor feedback.

Preliminary renderings of what the apartment building at 1713 W. Sunnyside Ave. could look like.
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RAVENSWOOD — A plan to convert a 103-year-old Ravenswood church into an apartment complex appeared to be dead a week ago, but now developers say they are overhauling the designs rejected by neighbors and the alderman. 

LG Development Group presented its plans for Philadelphia Romanian Church of God, 1713 W. Sunnyside Ave., during a December community meeting. 

The initial proposal included converting the church into 21 studios starting at $1,400 a month, 39 one-bedroom apartments starting at $1,800 a month and 10 two-bedroom apartments starting at $2,500 a month.The developer also wanted transit-oriented development status due to the site’s proximity to the Montrose Brown Line station.

Then, nothing happened.

Ald. Matt Martin (47th) said his office got radio silence from the developers. That, plus feedback from more than 300 residents, prompted him to say last week the application was considered “withdrawn.”

Martin said neighborhood concerns included lack of significant affordability and family-sized units as well as revising the design to preserve the historical nature of the church.

“We totally expected they would come back and make some revisions and we’d have another round of discussions with neighbors,” said Andrew Smerczak-Zorza, president of the Ravenswood Neighbors Association. “But for months we’ve had nothing to act on.”

Philadelphia Romanian Church of God at 1713 W. Sunnyside Ave.

Philadelphia Romanian’s pastor, Florin T. Cimpean, said in a text the church’s sale to the developer is still happening and the developer will soon resubmit plans. LG did not initially respond to Block Club’s request for comment.

It was only after Block Club’s inquiries the development company contacted Martin’s office to say it still plans to submit a revised proposal, said Josh Mark, Martin’s director of development and infrastructure.

In an email to Block Club later Thursday, Daniel Haughney, chief investment officer for LG, confirmed his firm is still working through the feedback from Martin and neighbors. 

“It’s still in process, so at this point we don’t have anything additional to share,” Haughney said. “… I would be happy to share details once we’re further along and have been able to incorporate as much of the community feedback as possible.”

LG essentially will have to create a proposal from scratch, Mark said.

“Any new proposal from any developer concerning this building would have to start the process over from square one,” Mark said.

The church was completed in 1918 to serve as the Fourteenth Church of Christ Scientist. Its architects, N. Max Dunning and Clarence A. Jensen, used white columns and other design motifs inspired by ancient Greek temples since classical design elements were popular at the time. 

The original Christian Science congregation left the building in the early ’80s and various congregations moved in and out of the church before Philadelphia Romanian Church took ownership of the property. 

Cimpean previously told Block Club the sale would allow the congregation to move elsewhere in Chicago. 

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