LINCOLN SQUARE — A developer wants to build 17 apartments at the Lincoln Square corner lot occupied by the St. Matthias Catholic Church’s rectory.
Developer CKG Realty Group, LLC wants to convert the existing rectory at 2300 W. Ainslie St. into a nine-unit apartment building and build another eight-unit building on the lot, according to plans shared with Ald. Andre Vasquez’s (40th) office.
The St. Matthias Church property is not part of the proposal, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago, Vasquez and the developer.
CKG will need Vasquez to approve a zoning change to build the project.
“If the neighbors are in support, it’ll move forward. But if not, and they have certain objections, we’ll go back to the developer to see if there’s any way that they can meet the community demands with a second crack at it,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez is hosting a virtual community meeting 7 p.m. Oct. 5 where neighbors can provide feedback on the proposal. You can sign up for the meeting online.
Vasquez will continue to gather feedback from neighbors about the developer’s proposal for about two weeks after the Oct. 5 meeting and expects to make a decision on the zoning request in November, he said.
“I know how invested the community is in this property, and I don’t think anything will be able to move forward without their support,” Vasquez said. “I think that’s something that anyone who has any proposal for this property has to keep in mind.”
The apartments at the rectory site would be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, according to the plans. All the apartments in the new building would be three-bedroom units, according to the plans.
Three apartments would be designated affordable, and the rest would be market rate, according to the plans.
Because the property is less than a mile from the Western Brown Line station and at least half a dozen bus stops, the developers also want a transit-oriented designation for the project, which would allow for it to have 10 parking spaces.
A total of 17 spaces for bicycle parking would also be provided, according to the plans.
The apartments would be built on space that’s become an unofficial but popular meeting space for neighbors, said Chloe Hasmonek, who lives nearby. Local children often play at the rectory’s garden after school, and Hasmonek had her grandmother’s funeral there, she said.
“The rectory was built back when there were multiple priests at the church but has been pretty empty even when St. Matthias was still open. So the loss of the rectory, the actual building, isn’t that big a deal. It’s more the garden that’s connected to it,” Hasmonek said. “I’ve seen people doing yoga in the garden. People who have absolutely no religious affiliation like to hang out in that garden. Losing that garden is the big issue I see.”
The developer is still in “the preliminary phase” of engaging with the community before finalizing any plans for the project, and construction might not be as “extensive” as neighbors fear, said CKG principal Gray Schiller.
The property’s current zoning allows for an “as of right scenario” that could lead to the demolition of the rectory and construction of a row of high-end single-family homes, Schiller said.
But the developer’s goal is to preserve as much of the rectory as possible while converting its interior into apartments alongside new construction that will “bring a multi-family product to the neighborhood,” Schiller said.
“Because from our end, we see that the Lincoln Square area has been getting a lot of single-family homes that are pricing people out. A big part of us wanting to take on this project is to bring apartments to people at an affordable price point,” Schiller said.
The rent for the three affordable units will be set by the Chicago Department of Housing, Schiller said. The market-rate apartments won’t be available for rent until at least 2024 if the project is approved, she said.
If the project moves forward, the rectory’s garden would most likely cease to be an unofficial community park, Schiller said.
“It would it be transitioning into a residential space, which would move people away from having access to it in the same way they do currently, which I’ll definitely go into more detail about at the meeting,” Schiller said.
St. Matthias is one of the parishes that was closed and merged with Queen of Angels, 2330 W. Sunnyside Ave., in Ravenswood last year.
The move was part of the archdiocese’s Renew My Church program, which aims to close and consolidate Catholic churches and schools to save money and create “more vital parishes.”
St. Matthias’ church building at 2310 W. Ainslie St. is not part of CKG’s proposal, said archdiocese spokesman Manny Gonzales. The archdiocese does not plan to close the school.
“The school still uses St. Matthias for classes, and there have been other prayer services held there on occasion. The parish will continue using the building,” Gonzales said.
A group of St. Matthias parishioners have gone over Cardinal Blase Cupich’s head to appeal St. Matthias’ closure with the Vatican.
These parishioners also have launched a nonprofit, Save St. Matthias Church, to fundraise for their legal battle.
Because the church building is still being used in some capacity, the group is in a “stalemate” with the archdiocese, leader Gerry Winters said.
“There’s this process for the archdiocese to formally move forward with the closure. It must state that the church is no longer considered a sacred space. Once that happens, we as parishioners have a right to appeal,” Winters said. “But for the last year and a half, nothing’s changed. And we can’t take any action until that formal closure decree comes in.”
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