THREATENED: Clock Ticking for Chicago Town and Tennis Club! (Chicago 7 2020)

Preservation Chicago has been working with urgency to find a win-win solution for Chicago Town and Tennis Club. The 90-day demolition delay extension provides slightly more time to arrive at a workable solution. The current pandemic has made this already challenging preservation effort even more challenging and we request that the demolition delay be extended beyond June 17, 2020.

The cost of moving the Chicago Town and Tennis Club building onto Emmerson Park would be cost approximately $1.5M. Preservation Chicago urges the Chicago Park District to commit the necessary funds to save this endangered building from demolition by moving it into the adjacent park and making it the new Emmerson Park Fieldhouse.

“The City of Chicago and Misericordia Homes have come to an agreement that would allow private developers and other interested parties to take ownership of the historic structure at 1925 W. Thome St. in Chicago’s West Ridge community area and move it to a suitable new location.

“The former Chicago Town and Tennis Club is a Tudor Revival-style building dating to the 1920s. Misecordia applied for a demolition permit for the structure in late December 2019, which triggered a 90-day review period by the Department of Planning and Development’s historic preservation staff because the building is rated Orange in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. The organization, which provides services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, plans to use the site to expand its campus.

“Under the terms of the agreement, the City is set to release the demolition permit on March 19, 2020. Misericordia will agree to hold off on demolition for another 90 days, until at least June 17, 2020, to allow a qualified entity to take ownership of the building and move it off the Thome Avenue parcel.” (City of Chicago Planning and Development Former Chicago Town and Tennis Club Web Page)

The potential Chicago Town and Tennis Club reuse options are carefully detailed in the Chicago 7 2020 write-up. The ‘move’ option is summarized below.

“An option would be to physically move the historic Chicago Town & Tennis Club building from its current location approximately 300 feet due south across the parking lot into Emmerson Park. Initially, this idea seemed the least plausible due to cost, but after Preservation Chicago received multiple competitive bids for the cost of building moving that were much lower than expected, it might be the most compelling alternative.

“Although more logistically complicated, moving the historic building into the park would provide a substantial benefit to both Misericordia and the wider West Ridge community. It would save a first-class historic building and provide Misericordia with a clear site to allow more flexibility in their development site plan. Additionally, the estimated $250,000 cost of demolition would be avoided. Perhaps these savings could be used to offset a portion of the cost to move the historic building.

“Preservation Chicago has received bids from two well-established, large-scale building moving firms. Both bids are similar in size and scope. They indicate the cost to move the building into Emmerson Park to be approximately $550,000. To prepare the foundation to receive the building would likely cost an additional $550,000. Additional miscellaneous repairs, adding an elevator, and bringing the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act are estimated at $400,000. So for approximately $1.5 million, the Chicago Park District could own a historic building that would serve as a magnificent new fieldhouse.

“Chicago Park District fieldhouses often cost $20 million or more to build new. If Misericordia pledged the $250,000 of budgeted demolition funds towards costs of moving the historic building, the difference could be paid for by the Chicago Park District, TIF funding, or private philanthropy. Given this extraordinary opportunity, it is likely that the funds would be forthcoming. For perspective, the Chicago Park District is currently spending $15 million to renovate historic Clarendon Park Fieldhouse and $1.5 million in TIF funding to upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning at the Revere Park Fieldhouse. Preservation Chicago is already working with foundations and individuals potentially interested in providing funds necessary to underwrite the cost of moving the building.

“The Chicago Park District already runs a robust business of renting out event spaces in historic park district buildings throughout Chicago for weddings and other celebrations. It could easily add the Chicago Town & Tennis Club to its list of offerings. This would be an amenity for the wider Chicago community and one which generates significant income for the Chicago Park District to support ongoing operations. Other than the need to provide elevator ADA access to the second floor, the historic building is in good condition. This use could be quickly implemented as it has been successfully hosting events and celebrations for decades as Unity Church.

“Preservation Chicago recognizes the demand for Misericordia’s extraordinary housing and services programs and strongly supports this noble and important work. These recommendations are intended to preserve and honor Chicago’s historic built environment and landmark-quality buildings, while simultaneously supporting the construction of new housing residential units for the developmentally disabled at Misericordia’s West Ridge Campus.

“We hope that all stakeholders will engage in a robust and fruitful conversation and that together we can find a win-win solution that meets that needs of all stakeholders.”(Preservation Chicago 2020 “Chicago 7 Most Endangered” Write Up)

Sign the petition to Save Chicago Town and Tennis Club/ Unity Church

Read the full Chicago Town and Tennis Club reuse options in the Chicago 7 2020 write-up 

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