CITY HALL — A plan to raze the the soon-to-be former site of Monastero's Ristorante & Banquets, 3935 Devon Ave., and replace it with a three-story, 55,000-square-foot church earned the unanimous blessing of the City Council's zoning committee on Friday.
The sloped gray building would include 10 classrooms and a sanctuary large enough for nearly 1,000 congregants, plus a 169-space parking lot.
The Monastero family announced in April that they'd accepted an offer from Elim Romanian Pentacostal Church to buy the property, ending their 55-year run in Sauganash. The restaurant will serve its last customer on Nov. 18, they said.
The Rev. Cristian Ionescu, the church's head pastor, had earlier suggested that the new owners would renovate the existing restaurant, a pair of one-story buildings separated by a drive-in parking lot. But last month he unveiled the design for a new building, with more than three times the floor space and twice the parking area as the current site.
The preliminary site plan includes a 169-space parking lot behind the building. The developer is considering adding another driveway from Devon Avenue, officials said. [A+C Architects]
The project's proponents have asked Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) to request a zoning change from the City Council.
At a public meeting on June 14, neighbors offered broad support for the project but aired concerns over its potential impact on traffic along the busy Devon Avenue.
Laurino issued a "letter of no objection" in advance of Friday's hearing, according to Dana Fritz, an aide to the alderman.
The developer is "continuing to fine-tune the design of the building" to "make it fit into the surrounding area and a little less imposing," Fritz wrote in an email.
Church leaders have also commissioned a traffic study, and they're considering adding a driveway to help ferry cars from the street into the parking lot, he added.
The zoning change is set to be approved by the full City Council on Wednesday.
The church's expanded parking plan still needs a stamp from the city's Zoning Board of Appeals before construction can begin, Fritz said.
If the zoning process doesn't any delays, crews could break ground by next spring, according to church leaders.