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Mision Cristiana Church Soon Will Be Town Homes, 2 Single-Family Homes

By Alisa Hauser | April 21, 2015 4:38pm | Updated on April 22, 2015 5:03pm
 A church at 1903 W. Schiller St. in Wicker Park.
A church at 1903 W. Schiller St. in Wicker Park.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — A massive 16,000-square-foot church that has been for sale for nearly two years will be seeing new life soon with a developer's plan to build two single-family homes and two townhomes on the lot.

Alex Zdanov and Igor Blumin of Northbrook-based Interforum Holdings are leading the redevelopment and have a contract to buy the distinctive yellow-brick church on the southwest corner of Evergreen and Schiller Streets, Zdanov confirmed Tuesday.

Located at 1903-05 W. Schiller St., the Mision Cristiana Family Ministries put the church up for sale in September 2013, listing the three-lot property for $2.2 million.

"The location is superb, being in Wicker Park is great. What can you ask for that's better and near transportation and retail?" Zdanov said.

Ed Tamminga, chairman of the Wicker Park Committee's preservation and development subcommitee, said his group supports the sale and wants to help developers get a minor modification to the existing zoning that will allow the property to be set back from the sidewalk and have rear driveway access.

"We are in favor of it. We previously gave advice to a buyer that we'd prefer to see the church or a portion of it renovated in some way rather than demolished and from our initial understanding that is what they are doing," Tamminga said.

Zdanov confirmed that the architect he is working with is "trying to preserve the church and do a gut-rehab [inside]."

"There is a decorative wall out front that is only 30 or 40 years old that will need to be demolished. We pulled out ancient records and the church was built as three individual buildings, it is already three lots," he said.

Zdanov said that the two single-family homes would be facing the park, while the two town homes would be facing Evergreen Street.

Initially a church built for Chicago's Serbian community, the building is not listed in a city database of architecturally significant properties, though it is located just across the street from Wicker Park's historic park.

Mision Cristiana Family Ministries, which holds weekly church services at the corner of Schiller and Evergreen Streets and Wicker Park Avenue, "opted out" of being part of Wicker Park's Landmark District when the district was created, thus exempting it from certain laws that prohibit renovations or demolition, Tamminga said.

Realtor Richard Wolk, who spoke with DNAinfo after putting the church on the market in 2013, said a 2003 real estate appraisal estimated the 16,000-square-foot building to have been constructed between "80 to 100 years ago."

Pastor Silfredo Gonzalez, who owns the building, previously said the ministry needs more space, which is why he's selling.

"We are a growing ministry and need more space. ... The issue is that we want to expand our ministry but here, we don't have land to do that," Gonzalez said in 2013.

Gonzalez's church, which works with youth programs, provides breakfasts and lunches, as well as anger management and art classes, in the process of looking for a  new location.

Renderings of proposed development of former Mision Cristiana church. (John Schiess)

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