Church 1, Condo 0: 1891 building spared for now

Residents objected to plans to demolish historic church

Alderman Harry Osterman with 5253 North Kenmore Avenue (Google Maps, Wikipedia)
Alderman Harry Osterman with 5253 North Kenmore Avenue (Google Maps, Wikipedia)

Local opposition forced a condo developer to shelve plans to demolish a 131-year-old church in Chicago’s suburban Edgewater.

The owner, an entity called LS 5251 LLC that’s controlled by Steve Ciaccio, withdrew its request for the demolition permit after Alderman Harry Osterman said he would seek landmark status for the historic Epworth United Methodist Church, Block Club Chicago reported. Neighbors and preservationists had been outraged when the congregation had to leave to make room for condos.

“I am deeply committed to preserving the historic Epworth Church building,” Osterman said on Facebook. “I am working with the city of Chicago’s Commission on Chicago Landmarks to landmark Epworth and ensure it will not be demolished.”

The church at 5253 North Kenmore Avenue was built with the help of noted architect Frederick B. Townsend. It expanded in the 1930s when a community house was added to accommodate the growing congregation.

The church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was classified as “orange-rated” under the city’s historic survey, meaning it has “architectural or historic significance in its community.” That meant the demolition requests were subject to a 90-day delay for city officials to decide if it would be appropriate to tear down the structure.

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The demolition request “flies in the face of what the community wants,” Osterman said.

Plans for the redevelopment haven’t been released and the owner hasn’t made any public comments about the project. Osterman said he hasn’t seen the final plans.

The Epworth site is already zoned for residential use and has served as a homeless shelter for decades for Cornerstone Community Outreach. Osterman said he’s working with the organization to find a new location for the shelter.

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[BCC] — Victoria Pruitt