LINCOLN PARK — Longtime residents of the Armitage-Halsted Historic District say a plan to demolish a former Baptist church and replace it with a Walgreens is being rammed through despite their concerns.
Preparations to take down the building that housed The Greater Little Rock Baptist Church at 834 W. Armitage Ave. could begin Thursday, although residents have yet to see Walgreens' plans.
The building was exempt from landmark status in 2003, but now that it has been sold to a developer for a reported $2.65 million, a new structure would not have to abide by the landmark guidelines.
“What is this really going to look and feel like?” said neighbor Kristi Nuelle. “Is it going to have neon signs? Is it going to be glass and steel?”
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) held a meeting on Oct. 1 and roughly 200 residents attended, anticipating detailed plans to be laid out by Walgreens and the developers. They said that representatives described the legality of their plans, but never showed architectural renderings for the proposed three-story building.
“They said they had no idea what the structure would look like,” said Dan O’Donnell, who owns a line of storefronts along Armitage Avenue near the proposed site. “They didn’t convey it. Every question that was asked, they were evasive.”
A major concern is the lack of street space for parking and loading zones along the two-lane street, where it's already difficult to find a parking spot.
O’Donnell said the former church limited funerals at the location to one or two a month in the 1990s due to a lack of parking and congestion, and often held them at neighboring parishes.
“Most had to be held at a sister church because there was no way to put the cars out there,” he said. “You would have 20, 30 cars and traffic would be snarled. It would almost be the same situation.”
A permit was granted in late September to demolish the building, but no action had been taken since the church’s last day of services three weeks ago.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, temporary tow zone no parking signs were posting in front of the building along tree-lined Dayton Street, which are effective Oct. 12 through Nov. 1 and a dumpster was positioned across the street.
“They are talking about parking these trucks on Dayton Street, possibly on Armitage, to do these deliveries,” Nuelle said. “They have not yet presented a clear proposal on how they plan to do deliveries for this store.”
Calls to Smith's office were not immediately returned.