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St. Adalbert Church Building Sold To Chicago Academy Of Music

By Stephanie Lulay | February 21, 2017 5:16am | Updated on February 21, 2017 4:17pm
 St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St.
St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St.
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St. Adalbert

PILSEN — A Catholic church in Pilsen slated to close because of costly repairs has been bought by a music school, a music school official said Monday.

The Chicago Academy of Music Conservatory plans to move its campus from University Church in Hyde Park to St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church next week, said Andrew Hertzberg, spokesman for the music school. 

The music school plans to restore the historic building, including the church towers, rectory and convent, Hertzberg said. 

Despite announcing plans to close the church last year, Mass continues to be offered at St. Adalbert, said Richard Olszewski, a parishioner who is leading efforts to save the church. It is unclear whether the church plans to continue Mass in the building, but Hertzberg said Mass will be offered in the building after the school moves in.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement Tuesday that it realized its decision to enter into a contract with the music school was "difficult for many to accept."

But the deal, which will finalize in the "next several months," came after much deliberation and was the best option going forward, the statement said.

"It came only after a years-long transparent, consultative process that included surveys and meetings conducted throughout the Pilsen community," it said.

"The fact remains that the buildings are in disrepair due to decades of declining weekly attendance and donations, a situation that has not substantially improved. The Academy of Music is the only proposal we received that included both sufficient financing to stabilize and repair the property and the promise of preserving it for community use."

As part of the school's move to Pilsen, the Chicago Academy of Music will launch a scholarship program that will provide 200 scholarships for children in need by September. 

"We hope to partner with neighboring schools and surprise students and parents with these scholarships," Hertzberg said. 

The Chicago Academy of Music will host its first concert in the building at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28. Tickets to the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble concert are for sale for $15 online. 

Some St. Adalbert parishioners plan to protest the sale outside the church the day of the concert, Olszewski said.

In February 2016, the archdiocese announced that St. Adalbert would close due to the more than $3 million in repairs needed to repair the church's 185-foot towers, which have been surrounded by scaffolding for more than two years. 

Pilsen parishioners have promised to fight the closing of St. Adalbert to the end, and staged protests in an effort to persuade the archdiocese to keep the church open. 

Despite a huge donation received last March, Catholic officials said in April the church would close. The donation wasn't enough to offset future maintenance costs and didn't address the declining number of Catholic parishioners in Pilsen, Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas wrote in a letter to the St. Adalbert's pastor, the Rev. Mike Enright. 

While the donation to the church from a deceased parishioner was thought to have been worth $3 million, the actual value of the donation, made in stocks, ended up being about $1.7 million, Olszewski said.

Archdiocese officials said the donation would cover "less than half" of the repairs needed. 

Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, first announced that a world-class music school was interested in the church in April 2016. 

The move to close St. Adalbert is part of the archdiocese's larger plan to reconfigure six Catholic churches in Pilsen into three, closing multiple churches in the process.

The parish was founded in 1874 by Polish immigrants, and the current St. Adalbert church was built in 1912 at 1650 W. 17th St. The church now hosts weekly Mass in English and Spanish and a monthly Mass in Polish. 

Founded in 2015 by jazz percussionist Kahil El’Zabar and entrepreneur Michael Carter Scott, the Chicago Academy of Music offers musical training to children and adults. 

In 2016, the Chicago Academy of Music also announced plans to open a satellite campus on the grounds of the saved-from-demolition St. Boniface Church in Noble Square