Pilsen alderman moves to designate St. Adalbert’s as a Chicago Landmark

In a letter to city officials, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez said the “designation process should begin immediately.”

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St. Adalbert Church.

St. Adalbert Church in Pilsen as seen from the CTA 18th Street Pink Line platform. The church’s iconic twin towers have been caged in scaffolding for the last few years.

Sun-Times file

Pilsen’s rookie Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) has requested that the shuttered St. Adalbert Church be designated a Chicago landmark in hopes of keeping the historic building away from the wrecking ball.

Sigcho-Lopez sent a letter Wednesday to the city’s Planning and Development Department requesting the distinguished designation that would include the church’s exterior facades, iconic twin towers, interior sanctuary, and rectory.

The move would “honor and preserve these beautiful and architecturally significant structures and encourage positive developments towards a goal of maintaining these buildings,” Sigcho-Lopez wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

If St. Adalbert, at 1636 W. 17th St., is designated a landmark, any work requiring a permit from the Department of Buildings — including demolition — would be reviewed by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Demolition of the buildings would also require approval from the Committee on Historical Landmark Preservation and would go up for a vote in City Council.

St. Adalbert held its final mass in July after the Archdiocese of Chicago announced in 2016 it would close the church and merge its parish with that of nearby St. Paul’s.

In September, City Pads Chicago, a residential development firm, won a bidding war to buy St. Adalbert from the Archdiocese for a reported $4 million but the deed has not been transferred yet as the company is still inspecting the building and securing the financing, a City Pads spokesman said.

Soon after news of the sale broke, City Pads said it would restore the church to “public and accessible use” and convert the rectory and another adjoining building into apartments with “more than 20% of the units” earmarked for “affordable family housing.” A City Pads spokesperson also said it plans on turning the church’s towers into observation decks.

City Pads managing principal Andy Ahitow supports Sigcho-Lopez’s efforts to designate St. Adalbert a landmark, the spokesperson said.

It’s unclear if landmarking St. Adalbert would hinder City Pads’ plans for the property in the gentrifying neighborhood.

In an email, Planning and Development Department spokesman Peter Strazzabosco said landmark designations “identify protected features, not uses,” and that building permits “are reviewed by the commission for their impact on those features, not on what the features are used for.”

Sigcho-Lopez’s letter highlighted that St. Adalbert was one of two dozen churches designed by Henry Schlacks, a prominent architect who apprenticed at Adler & Sullivan and was regarded as “the master of Catholic church architecture in Chicago” by church historian Edward R. Kantowicz.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps members of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.

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