Monday, January 26, 2009

St. Boniface Still Stands

Posted By on 01.26.09 at 10:35 AM

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Contrary to what you may have read or heard, St. Boniface Church is not dead yet.

A letter recently circulated by the Archdiocese of Chicago said demolition of the church, long championed by Lynn Becker and other preservationists, was to begin Friday.

But the letter had it wrong. The church, at Chestnut and Noble, is rated orange in the city's system for ranking buildings' architectural and historical importance. That's the second-highest level, and it means the city can't approve demolition until at least 90 days after the owner has requested it. In this case, the archdiocese requested demolition in early December, so there's a freeze on demolition until March, according to 27th Ward alderman Walter Burnett.

If you recall, this law was pushed through by Mayor Daley after the embarrassment of having his Building Department green light the demolition of a building--the old Mercantile Exchange Building--that his Planning Department wanted to save. It's a law the mayor has vowed to enforce, except apparently when it involves the CTA.

In any event, Burnett, Preservation Chicago, and the archdiocese are trying to figure out a way to save the building. "It's complicated because it's not our building," Burnett says.

Burnett and Preservation Chicago executive director Jonathan Fine say there's talk of a swap in which the archdiocese would hand title of the church to the city in exchange for some city-owned land.

The challenge is to find a creative reuse for the church. "Maybe we could use it for the 2016 Olympics," says Fine. "With the high ceilings it makes an excellent site for pole vault."

He's joking--I think--though it makes about as much sense as putting the tennis arena next to the bird sanctuary in Lincoln Park, just one of the many great locations our Olympic planners have come up with. 

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