Residents of the East Village and Noble Square neighborhoods are very familiar with St. Boniface Church and its long struggle to find a new use. The old cathedral, designed by Henry Schlacks and constructed between 1902 and 1904, was shuttered in 1990 and has remained vacant since. The church has been the subject of many community meetings over the years and many different proposals for adaptive reuse. However, it has also been left to decay over the years and there have also been a couple of tense moments where the future of the church seemed uncertain. Most recently, the city issued a demolition permit on the church, causing some concern and speculation as to its future. However, a plan is still in the works to not only save the church, but to completely overhaul it and build new residences inside of it. In addition, the Chicago Academy of Music is looking to set up shop on the property.
Noble Square resident Bob Zwolinski has been actively involved in the latest effort to redevelop the church, serving as one of the several community stakeholders trying to preserve and find a new use for St. Boniface. Zwolinski announced back in April that the community had not only identified a developer interested in buying the church and its surrounding property, but that a specific plan had already been put together for it. Developer Mike Skoulsky of Stas Development is looking to renovate the church for new residences and would build a new structure next door for the Chicago Academy of Music, a music school that describes itself as "the only musical conservatory in Chicago lead by master musicians." And despite the recent issuing of a demolition permit, both Zwolinski and Skoulsky wanted to reiterate that there is still a deal in the works for the church. The two invited Curbed out to see the church and to discuss the current plan.
There was a scare recently regarding the demolition permit, but where do we currently stand with St. Boniface?
The demolition was applied for prior to Stas Development Inc. and the Chicago Academy of Music being involved. The demo permit was issued but is not being released by the city and St. Boniface’s owner due to our current negotiations and proposed adaptive reuse development.
Can you tell us a little bit about the current plan for the site? Is the Chicago Academy of Music still interested in the site?
Chicago Academy of Music is a very important part of our development. Stas Development will be building a new structure for the academy on the north vacant parcel, which is located right off of Noble Street. This will include a couple retail spaces, a bakery, apartments, and a two-story auditorium. We will also will be landmarking the church, which is very important to us and the community.
There's a residential component here. Can you tell us some more details on that?
The church itself will be converted to 15 large condominium units for sale. The vacant parcel east of the church will become 24 large condos for sale, which will include parking for the residents.
How do the neighbors feel about the plan? What kind of feedback have you gotten from the city so far?
The neighbors are incredibly supportive of our development proposal. They are interested in saving the church and having a low density development in the neighborhood. We [Skoulsky] live down the street from the church and are active in the community and fully appreciate and understand how important keeping Noble Square family/neighborhood orientated is to the community, which this plan will accomplish. None of our [Stas Development] proposed developments are above four stories.
The city is interested in saving the Church structure as it is a very important piece of Chicago history. They also look to the neighborhood organizations such as Neighbors of Saint Boniface (NOSB) and East Village Association regarding feedback for density and height of the new developments. We have great support from everyone involved. This project has truly been a community effort with everyone working together to get this done.
What's the next step for St. Boniface?
Ongoing negotiations with the city and all parties currently involved.