URGENTLY THREATENED: Developer Moves Forward with Plan to Demolish Cenacle Sisters Building Complex and Subdivide for Huge Single Family Homes

“A religious order quietly sold the Lincoln Park building it has owned since the mid-1960s to a developer, who plans to build on one portion of the site and sell off the rest as eight house lots suited for new homes of as much as 15,000 square feet. The Cenacle site has frontage on Fullerton, Cambridge and Cleveland avenues. Blahnik said each of those streets will be the address of some of the new lots.

“The Sisters of the Cenacle, an order that originated in mid-1820s France, focus on ‘awakening and deepening faith,’ according to their website. ‘Our ministry is that of retreats, spiritual direction, adult faith formation and contemplative presence.’ They have had a footprint in Lincoln Park for nearly a century.

“The Cenacle Retreat Center, a modernist red brick structure designed by Chicago architect Charles Pope, was built in 1967 to replace buildings the order had been using since the 1920s. It was the subject of city hearings about landmarking and demolitions for the past several months, since the order announced it would sell the property to fund the retirement and health care needs of their aged members.

“In June, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks approved demolition after concluding that the Cenacle building is not a protected piece of the landmarked Mid-North District, designated in 1974 to protect 19th century homes in the area.

“Preservationists argued for saving the building, but their case was hard to sell for a few reasons, as architecture critic Lynn Becker wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times. They include the provision that religious buildings cannot be landmarked without their owners’ assent, the only category of buildings in the city with that rule, and the fact that the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, which color-codes buildings by their historical significance, includes only structures built through the year 1939, almost three decades before the Cenacle Retreat Center.” (Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/8/21)

“It can be said that a church is a community, not a building, but it also cannot be denied that the souls of Chicago’s early immigrants reside in the often spectacularly beautiful expressions of faith they built. Like our secular historic structures, whether 19th century or 20th, they cannot be cast aside without injury to our collective memory and spirit. A landmark is more than a legalism. It is an enduring marker, a reference point, a reminder of where we came from, and who we are.

“The 20th century, and its architectural record, is now two decades in the past. It’s time, before more is lost, to weave it into the continuous fabric of Chicago history.

“Revisit the religious organization exemption. Update the Historic Resources Survey.” (Becker, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/7/21)

Read the full story at Crain’s Chicago Business

Lincoln Park site of nuns’ retreat sold to be redeveloped as apartments and houses; To fund sisters’ retirement, an order focused on “awakening and deepening faith” sells to a developer focused on high-end residential, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/8/21 

Modernist building’s slated demolition exposes weaknesses in Chicago’s landmark laws; The likely leveling of the Cenacle Sisters Retreat and Conference Center on Fullerton Parkway is proof the city must do a better job of documenting — and landmarking — postwar structures, Lynn Becker, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/7/21

Lincoln Park’s Cenacle Sisters Requesting Demolition Permit To Convert Religious Center Into Homes; Cenacle Sisters is selling the religious center to care for aging nuns, Jake Wittich, Block Club Chicago, 6/7/21

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