Open Letter to the trustees of St Paul’s Church and residents of Wicker Park


Near NorthWest Arts Council (NNWAC) is a non profit organization founded to provide resources for arts, culture and arts education programs, to integrate culture within larger community development strategies, based in Wicker Park since 1986.

NNWAC entered a legal agreement with the trustees of St Paul's (Church) in 2008, to find a use for the property that will benefit the community, without a view to profit by either party.

NNWAC invested more than $120,000 to produce a feasibility study included a master plan for the facility, an architectural condition report with a detailed rehab budget, and formulated a business plan to support phased development. In addition, NNWAC cultivated more than 38 partners to develop new arts programs for a beta version cultural center in the existing space serving an audience of more than 40,000 in just two years. The building became alive with Arts and Community six days a week and religious services on Sundays. NNWAC wants to purchase the church for the appraised value in its current use, for public assembly, for charitable purpose and to continue serving public good.

But then communication stopped cold and Petrina Patti, as community leader, silenced the board members. NNWAC made an offer to exercise the option, with a certified appraisal, which was refused. She said no to every suggestion made by NNWAC and refused to carry on a principled negotiation. In fact, when Alderman Moreno requested their attendance at a mediated discussion, the church trustees refused; they had nothing to say. 
The mission and purpose of St Paul's Community Church changed in 2007, from religious and charitable purpose to a landholding corporation. The trustees of St Paul's pretend to be a church. They refused to satisfy the contract agreement with NNWAC, and now want to sell the church for cash, with no contingencies. The cash sale price is open to the market based on future value, and not on current use for public assembly, serving a charitable purpose.

Trusteeship is not the same as ownership, and the legacy of 120 years of collective ownership should be respected. If a congregation ceases to exist, and a continued use is demonstrated as viable, the collective ownership should be transferred to another charitable institution.

Instead, the church trustees, Petrina Lee Patti, Neil Levendusky, Crystal Fencke and Steve Yonkowski join the ranks of former Alderman Granato, and Matlock as selling out the community. The trustees are pulling cash out of a shared gift from a previous generation, and making decisions according to their own personal and private interests.

Laura Weathered, Director, Near NorthWest Arts Council

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Urban Times will have a followup to this but in the meantime, Laura Weathered may be reached by email or phone at 773.278.7677.

See more: Jeff Huebner's story




Shame. Shame on these 4

Shame. Shame on these 4 trustees and their greed.

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