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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Uptown’s Historical Preston Bradley Center Bought By Local Surgeon, Blues Man Who Plans To Convert It Into Nonprofit Community Hub

Daniel Ivankovich, a renowned orthopedic surgeon and blues musician known as Chicago Slim, plans to turn the church into a home for his and other nonprofits.

The Preston Bradley Center, with its nearly 1,300 seat auditorium, is listed for sale.
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UPTOWN — An Uptown church and social services center is getting a much-needed renovation and conversion into a nonprofit community hub after being sold for the first time in its nearly 100-year-history.

The now-closed Preston Bradley Center at 941 W. Lawrence Ave. has been sold to Daniel Ivankovich, a renown orthopedic surgeon, philanthropist and blues musician known as Chicago Slim.

Ivankovich plans to rehab the church, cultural center and social services building into a home for his and other nonprofits. The building would act as an office space for the organizations and a community space for hosting health clinics, seminars and arts and cultural programs.

Some of the 1925 building’s historical uses, including as a place of worship and a respite for the underprivileged, will remain, Ivankovich said.

“We’ve been looking at unconventional spaces that had a cultural or historical significance that we could build on,” he said. “We’re looking to make it an even greater resources to Chicago, to Uptown.”

The Preston Bradley Center will serve as the home of One Patient Global Health Initiative, a group run by Ivankovich and wife Karla Ivankovich that provides medical services to disadvantaged populations in the Chicago area.

It will also be home to Chicago Blues Society, a nonprofit founded by Ivankovich that provides music lessons for underserved kids and helps working musicians by providing services, including free health care.

Ivankovich bought the building for $2 million and plans to spend more on a renovation to the building. The nonprofits could move in by spring.

The renovation and ownership change begins a new chapter for the historically significant Preston Bradley Center, which served as home to religious congregations and other social services groups before falling into disrepair.

Credit: Eric Allix Rogers/Open House Chicago
Preston Bradley Center.

The Preston Bradley Center was built by its namesake, the Rev. Preston Bradley, in 1925 to house his Peoples Church of Chicago, a progressive Christian congregation. The six-story building includes a nearly 1,300-seat auditorium with two balconies. It has a large hall or event space, office space and art studios.

The historically protected building has been owned by the People Church of Chicago ever since. But after years of declining congregation numbers and donors, the church fell behind on repairs to the massive building.

Issues with the building caused North Side Housing and Supportive Services to move its men’s shelter out of the building in 2021 after 10 years. Due to building code issues, the city closed the building for occupancy in June, said Grace Itter, president of the board of trustees for the Peoples Church.

“We’re a very small congregation,” Itter said. “For the last 25 years, we’ve been doing our best to keep everything running smoothly. It just got to be too much.”

With building problems mounting, Peoples Church listed its home for sale in 2020. It let prospective buyers know that the building could be sold for under its appraised value if it would remain a community asset.

Ivankovich had been looking for a home for his nonprofits with an eye toward redeveloping an old building such as a firehouse or church. The surgeon, who grew up in Edgewater, was alerted to the building’s listing and began learning about Bradley and his Uptown church.

Ivankovich liked the building and was on board to keep it as a community center. Even better for the Peoples Church, he agreed to let the congregation keep a place of worship and offices in the building.

“Everything is there,” Ivankovich said. “It just needs to be restored.”

Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
The Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence Ave.

A renovation will move forward in stages, with the building being first brought into working order, Ivankovich said. One of the later stages will include renovating the auditorium.

The building will hold offices for nonprofits and be able to host health clinics and other pop-up services, Ivankovich said. A soup kitchen that used to reside in the center will be welcomed back.

“I see the building functioning as an incubator for non-for-profits,” Ivankovich said.

The renovation saves a building that is a contributor to the Uptown Square Historic District and that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Peoples Church will continue to use the Preston Bradley Center as its headquarters to offer social services to neighbors in Uptown. And for the first time in recent memory, the church is infused with cash from the building’s sale, allowing it do more in the community, Itter said.

“Our church, as long as I’ve been there. has been running miracles,” she said. “This is a miracle, too.”

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