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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Owner Of Edgewater’s Epworth Church Withdraws Demolition Permit As Landmark Process Moves Forward

The buyer of the 130-year-old church sought a demolition permit for a condo development. Those plans have changed after Ald. Harry Osterman endorsed landmark status for the church.

Epworth United Methodist Church in Edgewater.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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EDGEWATER — The buyer of Edgewater’s Epworth Church has withdrawn a demolition permit application for the historical church campus slated for redevelopment.

The owner applied for a demolition permit for the 130-year-old church at 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. last week, angering some neighbors and preservationists.

The news of the demolition request came as Epworth was hosting an estate sale and planning for its last services at the church. Pastor Max Kuecker said the congregation had to leave the building this week and its new owner was planning a condo development.

But after Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said he would seek landmark status for Epworth Church, the demolition permit was rescinded, the alderman announced. The permit request was withdrawn Tuesday, city records show.

“I am deeply committed to preserving the historic Epworth Church building,” Osterman said on Facebook. “I am working with the city of Chicago’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks to landmark Epworth and ensure it will not be demolished.”

Plans for the redevelopment have not been released publicly, nor has the building owner made any public announcements about their intentions for the church campus. Osterman said recently he had not been presented final plans for the project.

City records show an entity called LS 5251, LLC is the owner of the building. The LLC is controlled by Steve Ciaccio, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

If the redevelopment to residences comes to fruition, it would end the building’s long history as a house of worship and the site of critical social services in Edgewater.

Credit: Courtesy Stephanie Barto
The interior of Epworth United Methodist Church, 5253 N. Kenmore Ave.

Epworth United Methodist Church formed in 1888, back when Edgewater only had a few hundred residents.

The church building was completed in 1891, with noted architect Frederick B. Townsend donating his services, according to the Edgewater Historical Society. In the 1930s, the building was expanded and a community house added to accommodate a growing congregation. For decades, the church has also housed a homeless shelter from Uptown organization Cornerstone Community Outreach.

RELATED: 130-Year-Old Edgewater Church Hosting Final Services Sunday After Being Sold, Leaving Building’s Future Unclear

Osterman said he is working with Cornerstone to find a new location for the shelter.

The church has been added to the National Register of Historic Places and is given “orange-rated” status under the city’s historic survey, meaning it has architectural or historic significance in its community.

Epworth’s orange-rated status also meant any demolition permit requests were subject to a 90-day delay for city officials to determine if tearing down the structure was appropriate.

Neighbors and preservationists have sought to landmark the building as its future became uncertain. That campaign officially got the support of Osterman last week.

The demolition request “flies in the face of what the community wants,” Osterman said.

The church is already zoned for residential use, property records show.

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