Congregation Hits Wall in Bid to Raze Historic Chicago Church

The high costs of preservation and the current economic downturn have pushed the Chicago archdiocese to request a demolition permit for a historic church. But preservationists are pushing back.
December 19, 2008, 5am PST | Nate Berg
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"The 104-year-old church also has been the subject of a contentious struggle between the Chicago archdiocese and preservationists seeking to rescue the Romanesque building from the wrecking ball."

"Touching off another battle to preserve its crumbling walls, the archdiocese this month asked the city for a permit to raze the building, saying the cost of transforming the structure would be prohibitive in ordinary economic times much less now."

"Preservationists said the archdiocese's decision is irresponsible and greedy. They point to the archdiocese's reluctance to negotiate with members of the local Egyptian Coptic Orthodox community who made a bid to save the building."

"'In the eyes of the archdiocese . . . they have this great piece of land with this great view of downtown, and they obviously want to maximize it to what they consider is their highest and best use,' said Jonathan Fine, executive director for Preservation Chicago, a non-profit devoted to preserving historic architecture."

"That difference of opinion underscores a longtime battle in Chicago over who has final say about the fate of historic houses of worship. Preservationists argue that they should be protected by landmark status. The archdiocese and other religious leaders contend that imposing landmark status on sacred spaces puts an undue burden on cash-strapped religious organizations whose congregations are dwindling."

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Published on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 in Chicago Tribune
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