“After demolishing a century-old church on the Near West Side, a developer aims to build an office building in its place. Highland Park-based developer 4S Bay Partners plans to build the five-story office building near Addams/Medill Park at the site that housed the old St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church, 1319-1325 S. Ashland Ave., according to a newly filed zoning application. The building would house community service businesses and nonprofit collaboration space, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Billionaires Steve and Jessica Sarowitz manage 4S Bay Partners. The couple recently helped buy a building for the Chatham Workforce Center.
“Preservationists and city officials attempted to save the St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church, which had served as home to several congregations over the years, according to city records. A city-mandated 90-day demolition delay was imposed on the project last year, but it expired before the end of the year.
“Last fall, the Maxwell Street Foundation urged city officials to ‘broker an agreement with the developer’ to at least save the façades for preservation and reuse before a granting a demolition permit. The church, built by Theodore Duesing, was previously home to the Second German Evangelical Zion Church, according to the Maxwell Street Foundation.
“‘This building has significance for our group because this was the church built by a German congregation when they vacated a German church and school in the old Maxwell Street area, the history of which we protect and interpret,’ foundation secretary Laura Kamedulski wrote in a letter to the city. ‘This is a time-sensitive matter as demolition is imminent.’
“Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox encouraged the new owners to explore reuse of the church building instead of demolition, according to city records. During and after the demo-hold period, city officials discussed reusing parts of the church with the developer, a spokesman for the city’s Planning and Development department spokesman previously told Block Club. Officials pointed to the Epiphany Center for the Arts and St. Boniface Church as examples of adaptive reuse, according to city records.
“Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago executive director, hoped the developer would’ve worked to at least preserve the Ashland-facing façade of the church and incorporate the project into the development. The loss of another century-old building underscores the need for an ordinance to better protect buildings more than 50 years old, Miller said.” (Peña, Block Club Chicago, 2/25/21)
Preservation Chicago had advocated for a preservation-sensitive outcome for St. Stephenson for many years. We had actively outreached to the development team to encourage retention of the exterior walls and adaptive reuse of the interior space. Previously, we found multiple developers interested in adaptively reusing this historic building for a residential use. Multiple offers for purchase that were presented, but the former church ownership declined all offers.
After Demolishing Century-Old Near West Side Church, Billionaire Couple’s Firm Aims To Build Offices For Nonprofits; Despite efforts to save the old St. Stephenson Missionary Baptist Church, a firm managed by billionaires Steve and Jessica Sarowitz is redeveloping the site to house community service businesses and nonprofit collaborations, Mauricio Peña, Block Club Chicago, 2/25/21