Wicker Park Committee gives thumbs up to redevelopment of former church facing Wicker Park


At Evergreen on Schiller, both new buildings are shown 1907-1911


View from Evergreen

What started in April 2015 as a rehab of a church complex, dating back to 1905, and ended in a pile of rubble in October 2016 has been approved to rise again after the Wicker Park Committee (WPC) membership gave a thumbs up vote Wednesday evening, Aug. 2. The reincarnation is to be a two-building seven-unit new construction development, at the corner of Schiller and Evergreen. 

One of the proposed buildings, 1909-11 will house two duplexes on either side of the main entrance. Each has two units. Its design is in keeping with the feel of other structures in the Wicker Park Historic Landmarks District in which it is located. The other structure, 1907, on a triangular-shaped lot will house three units and is designed in a more contemporary style. It is not in the landmarks district. Both buildings are three stories tall.  

The zoning request is to go from RT-4 to RT-4A. "A" stands for accessible for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance and requires an elevator in the building, no steps to enter the building and at least 30% units available. That allows a developer an approximate extra 700 square feet above their floor area ratio requirement.  

Responsive to community feedback from the last presentation to the WPC membership, architect John Conrad Schiess, pointed out that they addressed Evergreen residents' concerns and objections to what is visible on Evergreen. They were:

  • Curb cut reduction
  • Increased green space
  • Increased pedestrian safety
  • Garages
  • Architectural detail
  • Additional parking on Evergreen  

    New site plan

The new renderings show:

  • Curb cuts are shorter, narrower and reduced from four to three
  • Green space has been added
  • One garage was eliminated, allowing the structure to be pushed back for increased pedestrian safety and providing a visual relief when walking down Evergreen
  • Garage doors will be stained wood
  • Architectural details are enhanced with more windows to have it look less like the back of a building
  • A net gain of two parking spaces along Schiller and Evergreen will result by having only three curb cuts along Evergreen  

One Evergreen resident expressed what other Evergreen residents identified as "sharing the pain" of garages and curb cuts. In response, Schiess showed what the site would look like with 1909-11 flipped with garages facing Schiller. Pointing out that while other developers would choose that because it could increase the revenue from purchasers who would have decks with a panoramic view of the Park, Peter Stevens, Forma Construction [soon to be property owner and developer] said, "No that is not right." 

Such a configuration would change the fabric and rhyme of the street thus Schiess and architect Ed Tamminga, WPC's Preservation and Development Committee Chair, said that it would not pass landmark district, CDOT or other possible reviews.


John Conrad Schiess stands behind Peter Stevens

In response to a request from the Evergreen resident to somehow camouflage the exterior rear staircase, Schiess and Stevens agreed to see if they could find a way to do that. Concerns about refuse can locations were answered by pointing out that space next to garages, hidden from street view, is where they are to be located. 

Change on the Schiller side of the building, for which the entrance is on the west side of the building, is to recess the second color of horizontal brick banding giving more of a shadow effect rather than a solid stripe.  

Schiess, who began working on this project with the current property owner Igor Blumin, Vice President, Interforum Holdings, Inc., gave high praise to Stevens, who plans to move forward with purchasing the property after the WPC vote Wednesday evening.  

"I have worked with a range of developers and by the second meeting most developers will go, 'Let's stop this.'  But Peter has come thru five meetings here as well as with his marketing team, showing me that he is flexible and willing to listen. Reducing the onsite extra parking will cost him approximately $30,000, but Pete did not hesitate to say 'Do it.' when I explained how that would be an answer to neighbors' safety concerns and the aesthetics".  

"I stuck it out because I want to make something that is beautiful and that people will appreciate for many many years. I told John to listen and gather information so that we can please as many people as possible as we move forward away from the negative past," explained Stevens. 

Stevens is not new to renovation work in the area. One of his current project which he also owns is 2039 S. Potomac, which he describes as a "beautiful Graystone rehab."  

"I give credit to and a degree of respect to the developer for staying with the process," said Ted Varndell, WPC President. "While I hate to see the church gone and a windfall of profit to the first developer, this developer could have not gone for an "A" zoning and could have built as-of-right without sticking with process and showing empathy with neighbors. I hope it is profitable for them."  


Evening view rendering at Evergreen and Schiller

Next Steps
"Their next steps will be to Landmarks, where not only the design but also the specific materials will be reviewed and approved," says Paul Dickman, WPC P&D member.  

"They have to apply for the zoning change to RT-4A from RT-4 through the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Getting permits from the City is the final requirement before construction begins as a Type 1, which means they cannot deviate from the plans and specifications in their application."  

While Stevens wants to begin the project this year, Schiess indicated that he is not sure that will be possible until next Spring.  

From the perspective of WPC P&D which has been review proposals for this site since April 2015, Dickman said, "We are happy to move on to other projects!"  


At the back of the church along Evergreen shows former wall on right

History of project
The last use of the complex was as the Mision Cristiana Church, 1905-1911 W. Schiller, while the first was of the congregation of Holy Resurrection Serbian Church in 1905.

Efforts over a couple of years to sell the property went unrealized until April 2015. At that time Schiess contacted the WPC P&D to have plans for three free standing buildings. Blumin's Interforum Holdings company was in the midst of purchasing the property.


Rear view of former two-flat from Evergreen

Eventually they had their approvals and permits and began some demolition work which ended in October 2016 when the structures collapsed

At the May membership meeting, Schiess made a presentation but Blumin was not present. Many neighbors were irate and expressed their anger. Stevens became interested in the project and contacted Schiess. 

Together Schiess and Stevens began working on the plans, attending P&D meetings in May, June and July, resulting in the presentation at the WPC August meeting.



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