St. Adalbert Church up for sale again; may become commercial, residential
November 2, 2018

Gazette Chicago file photo by Troy Heinzeroth
A large crowd of St. Adalbert’s parishioners and friends garnered media attention when they marched to protest the Archdiocese’s decision to close their church.

By Jessica Villagomez

After learning that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago once again plans to sell St. Adalbert Church, 1650 W. 17th St., Blanca Torres was disappointed but not surprised.

Torres, a member of the St. Adalbert Preservation Society, has been pushing for the church to remain open as a Catholic space since first hearing of its uncertain future in 2016.

Now, the Archdiocese has listed the property for sale through SVN Chicago Commercial. The church has the potential to become either a commercial or residential space, said Angelo Labriola, the property’s broker.

The church complex comprises four buildings: a former convent, the church itself, a rectory, and St. Adalbert School. They total more than 100,000 square feet of space, plus an additional 44,000 square feet suitable for development and parking spaces, according to SVN.

Labriola said SVN Chicago Commercial is looking actively for buyers for the buildings and accepting proposals for the additional space.

“It’s going to be dependent on what the buyer is going to want to do, what the church is willing to look at, and what the community is going to bear,” Labriola added, noting the buyer also must adhere to deed regulations.

Labriola is “looking for somebody that is going to improve the building, the quality of the community, and not deter from its values,” he said.

Community members like Torres, however, hope to keep St. Adalbert’s open as a church. Located in East Pilsen just blocks away from the 18th Street Pink Line El stop, the church is part of the community’s fabric, Torres said.

Integral to community

According to the St. Adalbert Preservation Society, “The church’s beauty has been integral to the lives of the struggling families there. Both for the immigrant Polish community that built this magnificent structure and for the later Mexican immigrants who have maintained it, the church has provided exquisite beauty fashioned by craftsmanship of top quality to those whose own residences may have been without any luxury.”

Torres remembers a time when St. Adalbert had programs that created the foundation for strong community.

“We used to have health fairs, we had a chapter for Alcoholics Anonymous, youth groups, we would have homework help,” she said. “We didn’t have as many as St. Pius, but we had the community based programs. She added that officials have stripped away church programs continuously and offered fewer Masses.

“If all worlds were perfect we’d want to stay as a parish, but the Archdiocese offices give three main reasons to close as the financial situation, the scaffolding, and demographics,” Torres said, acknowledging that the financial situation remains difficult.

“The scaffolding has been up for four years,” Torres said. “That’s not our fault. That could have been handled. And then they give the demographics change.” Torres added that parishioners did not feel concerned by demographics changes in the neighborhood because they believed they could bring people in “the right way” through additional programming.

Byron Sigcho, executive director of Pilsen Alliance, currently on leave from the organization to run for alderman of the 25th Ward, said the church’s uncertain future symbolizes growing issues within the community.

“We see more of these projects but less information, so we don’t know what’s going to be there,” Sigcho said. “We usually don’t find out ‘til after the fact.”

‘Empty promises’

He said future developments also may affect Pilsen’s housing costs. “Parishioners have received many promises, but it seems it’s always empty promises,” he added.

In a statement to Gazette Chicago, the Archdiocese of Chicago said it hired SVN Chicago Commercial to help manage proposals from potential buyers for the St. Adalbert’s additional space.

Any decision regarding the future of St. Adalbert Church and property will reflect the goals and needs of the parish and parishioners, the property’s architecture and history, its impact on the local community, and the viability of any new owner’s plans to address the significant costs necessary to repair and maintain the church and property,” the statement said.

Possible shrine

The St. Adalbert’s Preservation Society is raising money to buy the parish; members hope it could possibly be left as a sacred site and are willing to compromise for the church to remain Catholic. The group has raised $1 million, which would not be enough to repair the church but would show the Archdiocese the group’s good faith and community support.

Last year, the group suggested the Archdiocese turn the convent into a bed and breakfast hotel to generate money for maintenance and programs.

In 2016, the Chicago Academy of Music had contracted with the Archdiocese to purchase the church property, but the deal never closed. That year, the Archdiocese announced plans to close the church.

For the St. Adalbert preservation society, log on to www.savestadbertchurch.org. Contact St. Adalbert’s Church at (773) 847-6100. For SVN Chicago Commercial, see https://svnchicago.com.