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Should Part Of 106-Year-Old Logan Church Be Demolished? Weigh In At Meeting

By Mina Bloom | May 5, 2017 5:44am
 Grace Church of Logan Square is meeting with neighbors to discuss the future of the church building.
Grace Church of Logan Square is meeting with neighbors to discuss the future of the church building.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LOGAN SQUARE — Plans to demolish part of an 106-year-old church at Kimball and Wrightwood avenues and build up to 20 apartments on the site will go before the community for the first time next week.

Grace Church of Logan Square, 3325 W. Wrightwood Ave., is seeking a zoning change to pursue a scaled-back version of the project, which has been in the works for about two years.

The community meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the church.

Church leaders are trying to keep the 106-year-old church afloat.

The church requires significant work due to deferred maintenance over the years, including major water damage and a boiler with a limited life, the Rev. Mark Schol, pastor of the church, told DNAinfo last year.

Building apartments on the site would allow the church to continue worshiping and serving the community, church leaders said.

According to those familiar with the project, the plan includes demolishing part of the church — the building that houses the education wing — and building up to 20 apartments, a mix of three-, two-, one-bedrooms, as well as studios, in its place. The church would reserve 20 percent as affordable housing.

Renderings of the project are not yet available.

Schol said it's a scaled-down version of the project, which originally called for razing the entire site and including more community space.

"The original idea was to have a big full community space that would include incubator space, rooftop gardens, a community kitchen. The idea seemed to be a little bit too grand for some," Schol said. "We listened. We worked with them."

Under the current project, crews would tear down part of the structure and rebuild that section so "it looks exactly the same as it does now" with archways and other architectural details.

When asked why the church won't renovate instead of resorting to demolition, Schol pointed to cost.

"It would cost a whole lot more to hold a wall up for a while than it would to take it down and rebuild," he said.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) is expected to attend the meeting. His chief of staff, Monica Trevino, said the alderman organized the meeting as part of his practice of getting community input on zoning change requests.

Logan Square Preservation, which has met with the church on the topic, is against any plans that involve demolishing the church.

A flyer for the meeting posted around the neighborhood reads: "Logan Square Preservation believes that a zoning change should not incentivize the tear-down of a historic building in our neighborhood. We believe these historic buildings are central to our identity as a neighborhood."

Schol said while he "completely understands" Logan Square Preservation's position, he hopes the neighborhood group sees the greater benefit of keeping the church afloat.

"I think there is some real fear in the neighborhood as far as redevelopment is concerned because there's so much of it that's happening," Schol said.

"We hope [Logan Square Preservation] would continue to work with us as we continue to be transparent with them about continuing to help the people of Logan Square. Our church building has not just been a building for the [church-goers]. It's also been a building for the neighborhood."

Grace Church of Logan Square was the first English-speaking church in the neighborhood when it was established in 1904, Schol said.

Within four years the church grew from 13 people to between 400 and 500, the pastor said.

"It's been a stalwart here on Wrightwood and Kimball," Schol previously said.

The congregation constructed the current building in 1910. The church added classrooms, a gymnasium and a meeting area in 1925.

During the white flight of the 1950s and '60s the church lost a large part of its members as the neighborhood's demographics shifted heavily toward a Latino population, Schol said.

“Going into the '70s, '80s and '90s our church continued to shrink because we weren’t able to reach out to the community like we wanted to," he said.

When Schol took over in 2012 there were just nine people in the pews during his first Sunday service.

Since then the church has been working on outreach efforts and hosting art groups, sports and other non-church functions inside the building.

Attendance in recent years has "skyrocketed," Schol said, with an average of 50 to 60 people every Sunday.

Schol said the redevelopment project would "allow the church to continue to be in Logan Square for another 100 years."