UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A landmarked vacant church could become condos — though an alderman and community leaders say more details are needed before the project gets their support.
At the southeast corner of Walton Street and Hoyne Avenue in Ukrainian Village since 1905, St. John's Lutheran Church was designed by architects Henry Worthmann & John Steinbach, who were "arguably one of the city's most accomplished church designers," according to a Landmark Commission report.
Most recently used by members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the 7-lot, 17,532 square-feet parcel had been on the market since 2005 and was declared a city landmark in March, just weeks after being purchased by a prolific real estate developer.
Alex Troyanovsky, owner of Mokin Development LLC, which is a division of Regency Development Group, purchased the buildings at 913-25 N. Hoyne St. for around $1.1 million in February, according to Igor Michin of MBI Builders, the project's general contractor.
Architect Orest Baranyk of Baranyk & Associates will be designing the condos, which will be developed by Regency, which specializes in commercial and residential development in Chicago and Russia, according to its website.
The proposed plan would create 19 luxury condos on the church and school site ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 square-feet and cost in the $400s range.
The majority of the condos will be two-bedroom, with one one-bedroom unit and one three-bedroom unit, Baranyk said. Ten condos will be in the church and nine in the adjacent school building.
Michin said he's worked with Troyanovsky since the 1990s and they've developed dozens of properties together, including a 54-unit loft conversion at 824 W. Superior St. and a luxury home at 2052 W. Ohio St.
But they've never tackled a historic landmark church.
"It will be unique space, not your typical cookie cutter with same layout. It will build a lot of history and excitement. There is a huge market for spaces that aren't ordinary," Michin said.
Claiming to be "almost 100-percent sure the zoning change will happen," Michin said, "The church has been vacant for a long time. I would imagine that all the neighbors and everybody would support this becoming a residential property. It will only create value for the neighborhood."
Jim Banks, an attorney for the developer, is seeking a zoning change to build 19 units rather than the 17 units allowed under the existing zoning.
Paul Matwyshyn, president of the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association, said that Baranyk came to their May meeting seeking support on his zoning request. He asked for the developers to come to their group's next meeting, when more of their members and community residents could attend.
Our Urban Times reported that the main concern from the group's May meeting with Baranyk was access to an underground parking garage that would require a curb cut on Hoyne Avenue. That would create a driveway between the church building and the school.
"They are making a very difficult situation and are pushing for the project to have alley access to the garage and basement as opposed to a curb cut," Baraynk said.
Baranyk promised the exterior of the buildings "will look exactly as it is" since they are landmarked. Added Michin: "From what I understand the facade needs to stay the way it is, the windows, the crosses, everything."
Troyanovsky, once a prominent force in Oak Park real estate based on news reports, is traveling out of the country and is not expected to be at the June 20 neighborhood association meeting, according to Baranyk and Michin.
Matwyshyn said its "it's too early to say" how his group feels about the project and would "like to hear their full presentation."
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said that no zoning change will be approved until the developers "have solid community support for their project."
Jonathan Fine, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said that "the best reuse of the church would be as another house of worship" but that "we have way more houses of worship than worshippers."
"The devil is in the details," he said. "Will they add anything unsightly that would diminish the historic character of the church? Is it done in a sensitive manner and are they being as creative as they can?"