Last night, Noble Square neighbors came together for a public meeting to discuss an ambitious plan to convert St. Boniface Catholic Church into new residences and a campus for the non-profit Chicago Academy of Music (CAM). After sitting vacant for 26 years and facing demolition, the 11th hour deal to save the 1902 Henry Schlacks-designed structure from the wrecking ball was considered one of 2016’s biggest wins for Chicago architectural preservation. While the property’s new owner Stas Development and investment partner Marc Realty did not show detailed plans or renderings at yesterday’s meeting, a basic overview of the project and a timeline were presented.
The latest version of the St. Boniface plan calls for three individual components. The first is a new four-story structure located north of the church containing retail space, roughly eight studio apartments for use by CAM instructors and students, and a two-story auditorium space. The second tranche involves a new building for the lot immediately east of St. Boniface and would contain 24 new condo units. The last piece of the puzzle would see the original Romanesque church converted into 15 condominiums.
Though a conceptual rending by architect Michael Vasilko showing what a Chicago Academy of Music’s St. Boniface campus could look like was making the rounds online last year, the revitalization of St. Boniface will be handled by Chicago-based SPACE Architects + Planners. While placing the school’s performance space in St. Boniface’s existing sanctuary was understandably the first choice of both CAM and the development team, the condition of the old building rendered that route cost prohibitive.
“I would say [the poor condition] is the single biggest issue and why this building has been vacant for so long,” explained Michael Skoulsky of Stas Development, “The cost to reuse it, repurpose it, or just restore are so high that just two years ago my plan would not have worked. It’s only now that the real estate market and neighborhood are in a position to support something like this.” According to Mr. Skoulsky, work has already begun to stabilize the structure of the old church, restore its exterior cross, and secure the site from trespassers.
Moving forward, specific floor plans and renderings of the redeveloped St. Boniface will be revealed at a future community meeting expected to take place in March. The developer then hopes to receive Planned Development (PD) zoning approval and break ground some time in June or July. While the new construction aspects of the plan are anticipated to take one year, the restoration and conversion of the original church building could take up to two years to complete.
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