PARTIAL WIN: After Emergency Demolition, Façade Reuse Proposed for 5th Church of Christ Scientist/Shiloh Baptist Church

Shiloh Baptist/5th Church of Christ Scientist, by Solon S. Beman, 1914, 4820 S. Dorchester Avenue, in the Kenwood Landmark District, Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

After 15 years of vacancy, neglect, and the resulting severely deteriorated condition, a redevelopment plan has emerged that would preserve the columned front façade of Shiloh Baptist Church/5th Church of Christ Scientist. Designed by Solon S. Beman in 1914, the Shiloh Baptist Church/5th Church of Christ Scientist is located at 4820 S. Dorchester Avenue in the Hyde Park–Kenwood Landmark District. The façade is protected as a contributing building within the Designated Chicago Kenwood Landmark District. While it is also within the Hyde Park – Kenwood National Register District, National Register Districts provide no protection against demolition.

Preservation Chicago and concerned members of the Hyde Park and Kenwood Community attended many Building Court hearings, including those on November 30, 2017 and December 14, 2017. The current owner and developer allowed significant deterioration of the building’s condition which resulted in the emergency demolition of the rear portion of the building, leaving only the front façade and return walls on the side of the building still standing.

At a November 7, 2018 community meeting sponsored by 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King, John Liu, the owner and developer, announced plans to build 13 townhouses around a courtyard. Each townhouse would be approximately 3,500 square feet, with underground garages.
“Earlier plans entailed preserving some or all of the original building and parts of its interior, but Liu said the “only way we could do this at a price that meets the market” was to demolish all but the columned—and landmarked—facade. Demolition is at least 80 percent complete, he said, and the first two townhouses, which have the facade as one of their walls, are under construction.” (Rodkin, Crain’s, 11/8/18)

“While we’ve not seen any plans, we are pleased that the project appears to be moving forward,” Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. “It’s been far too long since this structure has been utilized, and it’s been a concern to us.” (Rodkin, Crain’s, 11/8/18)

Preservation Chicago had long sought to find a patron for the building and would have preferred a preservation-oriented developer who would have stabilized and redeveloped this not just the façade of this historic landmark, but the entire building.

Additional Reading

Townhouses coming to site of historic Greek temple-like Kenwood church; Built in 1914 and vacated by a Baptist congregation in 2003, the onetime Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, has been the site of a series of rehab plans that fizzled, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 11/8/18

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