UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — A plan to build 20 condos inside of a turn-of-the-century church and school that has been over a year in the making is underway, though an alderman wants the developer to get approval from neighbors most impacted by an influx of new residents on their block before any further building permits are issued.
Though in July, the five members of the city's Landmark Commission Permit Review Committee gave preliminary approval on developer Alex Troyanovsky's plans to convert the St. John Church and School at 913-25 N. Hoyne Ave. into condos, neighbors living near the development are concerned about increased traffic in an alley behind the buildings.
So far, the city has only issued interior demolition permits for the buildings, where work is underway.
Alisa Hauser says the developer and the neighborhood are working closely to figure out a way to make this construction project a reality:
On Tuesday, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said he would like to make sure the members of the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association are on board with all details of the project before a construction permit is issued.
Last month, 60 members of the neighborhood group and area residents met with the project's architect, Victor Drapszo, in front of the church at the northeast corner of Walton Street and Hoyne Avenues.
"It was an awareness meeting so neighbors will understand what will happen," said Steve Niketopoulos, who outlined main neighbor concerns — primarily related to increased traffic — on his group's website.
At another meeting in June 2013, residents were concerned over a proposed "curb cut" that would have created a driveway between the church and school for residents to access their homes.
The building plans were later revised to offer only alley access to 20 garage parking spots.
"The majority of people are fine with the alley traffic as long as there are safety precautions," Niketopoulos said.
Igor Michin, a spokesman for Troyanovsky, who owns the buildings, said his team is prepared to install safety lights and mirrors in the alley.
Michin said Troyanovsky plans to invest $4 million on the renovations, which include restoring damaged stained glass and replicating historic brick molds to maintain the church and school's original exterior facades.
Michin said the construction plans are ready to be submitted to the city.
"The last thing we are waiting on is a support letter from the community; we need the formal letter in order to file for a construction permit," Michin said.
Michin said that while his team has started to clean up the interior of the church, no further work, such as adding framing and installing plumbing, can be done without a permit.
Built in 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 seven-lot, 17,532-square-foot parcel had been on the market since 2005 and was declared a city landmark in March 2013, just weeks after being bought by Troyanovsky, a prolific real estate developer.
According to renderings, there are 10 condos planned for inside the church at 925 N. Hoyne Ave. and 10 inside the school at 913 N. Hoyne Ave.
"If everything goes well [next week], we will file for permit and then [the condos will be] ready by 2015," Michin said.
While the majority of the two- and three-bedroom dwellings will be around 1,500 square feet and cost between $300,000 and $425,000, Michin said the church will offer larger "duplex down" units that will be around 2,000 square feet.
Though previously Fioretti has said he wanted to see a marketing plan for the condos, Michin said he has not released marketing plans because he is waiting until the building permits are received.
"I want to get everything finalized first," Michin said.
In talks with some prospective buyers, Michin said "everyone is really excited."
"A lot of people are interested in the tower [church] units, which are cool and unique," Michin said.
Niketopoulos, who lives about a block away from the church, said, "It has been one of the longest running development projects, so it's nice to see something finally coming to a conclusion here."
The next Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 14. at Whisk, 2018 W. Chicago Ave. Only members of the group can vote on the project, but all residents are welcome to attend the meeting, Niketopoulos said.
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