PILSEN — St. Adalbert Church in Pilsen is under contract with a Miami-based buyer, church officials confirmed.
If the sale with Anew Holding LLC goes through, the beloved church at 1650 W. 17th St. could be turned into an event space, the developer’s attorney Felix Gonzalez told the Sun-Times.
“We believe it’ll bring great value, great opportunities and a great public space to the neighborhood,” Gonzalez told the Sun-Times. “This is going to be a way to preserve a very beautiful building.”
The site would be modeled after Temple House, a converted synagogue in Miami that has served as a popular space for parties, music video shoots and other events, according to the Sun-Times.
Gonzalez and a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago declined to comment to Block Club beyond confirming the impending sale.
This latest attempt to sell St. Adalbert’s comes as parishioners and neighbors celebrated a key approval from the city’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks earlier this month, paving the way for the church to become an official city landmark.
There is still a lengthy series of approvals needed before the landmarking status would be finalized.
Consent from the building owner is required to landmark active religious houses of worship. However, consent is only advisory for buildings no longer in use for religious services, according to the city’s planning department. St. Adalbert was deconsecrated in 2019.
If the property switches hands, consent from the owner would still be advisory.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who’s been a champion of preserving St. Adalbert’s, said he was made aware of the contract between the archdiocese and Anew Holding earlier this month. He said he’s pushing for the potential buyer to engage with the community regarding its plans for the shuttered church.
The possibility of a developer demolishing or gutting the church has been a repeated concern of the alderman and neighbors
“There’s no support for something like this, just given the huge need that we have in our community” for things like housing, childcare or senior services, Sigcho-Lopez said. “We’re going to put yet another venue that will erode the quality of life for residents, that could create more nuisances to the residents?”
Last year, Sigcho-Lopez attempted to downzone the St. Adalbert’s property to force any potential developer to engage with Pilsen neighbors and former parishioners.
The alderman’s ordinance passed the zoning committee in May 2022, despite a representative from the archdiocese saying at the time it would likely sue the city if the ordinance passed. It was set to go before the next City Council meeting, but allies of former Mayor Lori Lightfoot blocked the vote.
The zoning ordinance hasn’t been brought up for another vote.
Sigcho-Lopez said Wednesday “every option is at the table,” but that he’s waiting for direction from the community.
“What we want to make sure is that we avoid unnecessary litigation, that we avoid more division in a time when I think the community needs healing, needs maturity, needs actions from our elected officials and leaders and community leaders,” he said.
Judy Vazquez, a former parishioner who’s been involved in the fight to preserve the church, said she thinks Anew Holding’s plans for a venue space is “wrong,”
“I have faith that the contract will fall through,” she said. “It’s not the first sort of, kind of rodeo that we’ve been at.”
History Of Failed Deals
St. Adalbert was founded in 1874 by Polish immigrants. The current church building dates to 1912.
The archdiocese announced in February 2016 that St. Adalbert would close due to the more than $3 million needed to repair the church’s 185-foot towers, which have been surrounded by scaffolding for years.
As a freshman alderman, Sigcho-Lopez called on the Department of Planning and Development to immediately begin the landmarking procedure. City planning officials said in late 2020 they would pursue preliminary landmark recommendation, but a hearing on the matter did not materialize.
The church was left out of an unpopular Pilsen landmark district proposal that was ultimately scuttled.
Previous attempts to sell the building also have fallen through.
The archdiocese tried to sell the church building in November 2016, when it contracted with the Chicago Academy of Music. In September 2018, the archdiocese hired commercial real estate firm SVN Chicago to try to sell the property again.
City Pads, a developer who sparked ire among residents after “whitewashing” a mural at the Casa Aztlan community center, was under contract to buy the church complex for $4 million in September 2019 — months after the church was deconsecrated. But the deal later fell through.
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