THREATENED: Ald. Sigcho-Lopez Attempts to Downzone St. Adalbert Church But is Blocked by Mayor Lightfoot (Chicago 7 2014 & 2016)

25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez announces plans to downzone St. Adalbert Church following the final services at the Pilsen church in 2019 and is joined by Ward Miller and Julie Sawicki. Photo Credit: Mauricio Pena / Block Club Chicago

“Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) has filed a complaint against Mayor Lori Lightfoot with the city inspector general’s office, accusing her of intervening in a zoning matter to favor the Archdiocese of Chicago over his constituents.

“On May 24, Sigcho-Lopez successfully got his long-sought plan to downzone St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St., from residential to public space through the city’s Zoning Committee, but it faced scrutiny during a City Council meeting the next day and has been put off until next month’s council meeting.

“‘Mayor Lightfoot has taken it upon herself to intervene despite this being vetted in committee, so I don’t understand why she is intervening in a 25th Ward item,’ Sigcho-Lopez told the Sun-Times. ‘We need Lightfoot to focus on important matters like addressing violent crime and stop meddling in what we want to see in our community.’

“The council member accused Lightfoot of taking cues from the archdiocese and Cardinal Blase Cupich over what parishioners are asking for — a transparent process for the future of the church and property.

“Sigcho-Lopez’s complaint accuses the archdiocese and a lobbyist of ‘pushing a real estate deal without any communications to our office, parishioners or residents, despite multiple attempts, including a formal request to meet and discuss plans for the site. Other affluent communities are given meetings and consideration all the time.’

“St. Adalbert was built by Polish immigrants in the early 1900s and opened its doors to parishioners in 1914. It was announced in 2016 the church would close, and on July 14, 2019, St. Adalbert held its last Mass.

“Sigcho-Lopez said the move to downsize the church from residential to an open space designation would ensure the community has input in what happens to the church, which has been left deteriorating.

“Eric Wollan, chief capital assets officer for the archdiocese, said they would seek a legal remedy if the council approves the downsizing.

“Julie Sawicki, president of the Society of St. Adalbert, has fought to save the church since its announced closure over five years ago. She called it a “slap in the face” to the Mexican and Polish community that city officials aren’t doing more to preserve the church.

“She accused the archdiocese of ‘lying’ about the restoration cost. Architects and contractors, she said, had visited the church and estimated the job could be done for under $6 million.

“‘The church and property were built by immigrants who turned it over to the diocese for stewardship,’ Sawicki said. ‘They were poor stewards, and now they want $4 million for it.’

“‘Public and open space zoning is not a perfect zone, but that’s OK. It is enough to deter real estate developers from tearing down the church and building a massive real estate project,’ Sawicki said. ‘It doesn’t matter what the downzone is. It is the spirit of it to deter any buyers.’ (Ramos, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/28/22)

Despite assurances in 2020 from the City of Chicago that a Chicago Landmark Designation of St. Adalbert would proceed, it has been mysteriously stalled without explanation. Preservation Chicago has been advocating for Chicago Landmark Designation of the St. Adalbert Church in Pilsen for years. It was a Chicago 7 Most Endangered in 2014 and 2016. It was also included in the Chicago 7 Most Endangered Roman Catholic Church categories in 2019 and 2021.

We have worked closely with local leaders in the Latinx and Polish communities to resist the closure and possible demolition of the building. Since the Archdiocese of Chicago deconsecrated the church and ceased holding religious services within the building, we have strongly encouraged stakeholders and the City of Chicago to move forward with Chicago Landmark Designation.

Ward Miller testified in support of the downzoning proposal at the City of Chicago Zoning Hearing. Preservation Chicago strongly supports Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez in his effort to protect St. Adalbert and to ensure that the community of Pilsen has a voice to determine its future.

Read the full story at Chicago Sun-Times

Ald. Sigcho-Lopez files complaint against Mayor Lightfoot over rezoning of Pilsen church

The alderman accused the mayor of taking cues from the Archdiocese and Cardinal Blase Cupich over what parishioners are asking for — a transparent process for the future of the St. Adalbert Church property, Manny Ramos, Chicago Sun-Times, 5/28/22

City Moves To Landmark Pilsen’s Beloved St. Adalbert Church After Years Of Activism; The preliminary recommendation could be considered by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in the spring, a spokesman said, Mauricio Peña, Block Club Chicago. 10/29/20


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