Despite an 11th hour advocacy effort by Preservation Chicago, the historic former Temple Beth-El building at 2122 W. Crystal was demolished. Preservation Chicago strongly encouraged the developer to save all or part of the historic façade. The history of the building was evident on its highly intact façade including its decorative yellow brick work, a series of stone arches, limestone ornamentation and finials, and the Hebrew and English carved inscriptions over the entry doors.
Childs Development purchased the historic synagogue/church building in Wicker Park for $1.75 million. They closed on August 8, 2018. Twelve days later on August 20, 2018, a demolition permit had been issued for the 116 year-old building. Built in 1902 as the third Temple Beth-El synagogue, it became the Original New Morning Star M. B. Church in the 1970’s.
Tear-down developers are often willing and able to outspend buyers looking to save and restore historic homes. According to the listing broker, the church initially asked $1.1 million for the building. It went under contract in less than a week and for an amount $650k over the list price, or approximately a 60% premium over the asking price.
As this development was “as-of-right,” there were few planning or preservation tools available to the community. There was no zoning change required and therefore aldermanic approval was not required. The building was not protected by any Chicago Landmark District designation or even included in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey which might have required a demolition delay. Downzoning properties so that the zoning more closely corresponds the existing historic building would help to encourage reuse of existing building and homes. An extension of the nearby Chicago Landmark District would have provided the greatest protection and oversight for historic structures like Temple Beth-El.