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St. Boniface Church Could Become Music School Under New Proposal

The Chicago Academy of Music is looking to purchase the long shuttered church

Flickr Creative Commons/Devin Hunter

There have been many proposals floated for the long vacant St. Boniface Church in the East Village neighborhood, but a new plan may see that the century-old church is transformed into a music school and performance space. According to preservationists and community activists, there is currently a letter of intent to purchase the church and see that at least some part of it is preserved.

Bob Zwolinski, a Noble Square resident and former candidate for the Illinois House, tells us that the Chicago Academy of Music has expressed interest in purchasing the property and using it for classes and events. There is a court hearing on Wednesday to present the letter of intent and financials showing that the organization is prepared to purchase the building. Zwolinski also indicated that the Chicago Academy of Music has expressed interest in Pilsen's St. Adalbert Church, which is slated for closure.

"We pulled this off really quickly, and the community is still under the impression that [St. Boniface] is going to be torn down," Zwolinski says. "We're trying to get the word out that a music school is interested in using it." If Wednesday's hearing goes as planned, a community presentation will follow, Zwolinski suggests.

Zwolinski recently toured the church to get a look at the condition inside. He believes that although the church is in rough shape, the bones are good. "The structure is all pretty much in place, but it needs tuckpointing, roofing — it's a building that's sat vacant since 1990," Zwolinski tells us.

Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago reiterates that the new proposal has come together quickly. Previous proposals for the church failed for different reasons — budget concerns, denial of tax credits, lack of community support — but Miller and Zwolinski both hope that the latest plan will get a full public presentation in the coming weeks.

Miller also believes that the plan is different than others in the sense that it takes a creative approach to the reuse of the space. "We're trying to be creative with the approach," Miller says. "St. Boniface was a a public building — a public space — and it worked well for music."