THREATENED: Preservation Chicago Raising Funds To Move Chicago Town and Tennis 250 Feet Out of Harms Way (Chicago 7 2020)

Chicago Town and Tennis Club/Unity Church, 1925, George W. Maher and Son, 1925 W. Thome Avenue. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
New Emmerson Park Fieldhouse/Chicago Town and Tennis Club/Unity Church Call to Action Flyer. Photo Credit: Preservation Chicago

Link to petition to Save Chicago Town and Tennis Club / Unity Church

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 cost approximately $1.5 million, including $550,000 to move the building, $500,000 to build a new foundation, and about $450,000 to upgrade the building interior.

Preservation Chicago urges the City of Chicago and Chicago Park District to quickly 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.

As recently as May 20, 2020, Chicago Department of Planning and Development announced the funding for four more park projects. We strongly support these park projects but don’t leave Emmerson Park out!

  • Brighton Park, $50 million to support A new Chicago Park District headquarters and park space
  • Clarendon Park, $13 million to support renovations to Clarendon Park fieldhouse
  • Williams Park, $6 million to support a new Williams Park fieldhouse.
  • Blackhawk Park, $3 million to support renovations to the Blackhawk Park fieldhouse.
  • Avondale Park, $2.9 million to support renovations to the Avondale Park fieldhouse.
  • Kosciusko Park $1.8 million to support renovations to the Kosciusko Park fieldhouse.
  • Revere Park $1.5 million to support renovations to the Revere Park fieldhouse.
  • Chopin Park, $700,000 to support renovations to Chopin Park fieldhouse.

The Chicago Park District can spend $50 million on a new headquarters, but can’t find $1.5 million to save this endangered building from demolition by moving it onto the adjacent park and making it the new Emmerson Park Fieldhouse? From Outhouse to Fieldhouse! Our Kids Deserve Better.

Today, children’s programming at Emmerson Park in Chicago is held in a former public restroom building that’s been converted into a tiny fieldhouse. The children of West Ridge have been promised a proper fieldhouse in Emmerson Park for decades. Yet, there never seem to be enough funds for this small park in a diverse, working class neighborhood of Chicago.

The converted restroom shed building is extremely deficient. Half the structure is still restrooms and the other half has a small office and tiny community room. Mops and buckets are still stored in the hallway. This sub-standard building is an embarrassment to the City of Chicago and Chicago Park District.

This building is too small and can only hold a small number of children. There are always long waitlists for most after-school, summer camp, and park district programs. Park district staff do their best, but they simply don’t have the space.

Due to crossing gang turfs, kids and parents hesitate to attend other parks in other neighborhoods.

Enough is enough!

Meanwhile, 250 feet away from Emmerson Park is the historic Chicago Town & Tennis Club building. This gorgeous, 1920s-era tennis clubhouse building with vaulted ceilings, slate roof, and grand ballrooms was recently used as a church and hosted wedding receptions.

This beautiful, recently restored, high-quality building is scheduled to be BULLDOZED in June 2020.

It would be the perfect Emmerson Park Fieldhouse….if it can be moved out of harms way in time!

New fieldhouses in Chicago often cost from $15 to $20 million. Maintenance on existing fieldhouse costs far less, often from $1 to $3 million.

Relocation would be a fraction of the cost of new construction. The cost to physically move the Chicago Town & Tennis Club building into Emmerson Park and make ADA upgrades is $1.5 million. This cost includes $550,000 to move the building, $500,000 to build a new foundation, and about $450,000 to upgrade the building interior.

For literally “ten cents on the dollar” the children of West Ridge can have the amazing fieldhouse they deserve.

The City of Chicago and Chicago Park District must ACT NOW and find the funds to relocate the Chicago Town & Tennis Club into Emmerson Park.

Put your money where your mouth is!

Preservation Chicago has been hard at work and has already secured pledges for approximately $250,000 of the relocation cost from Chicago-based foundations who recognize this incredible opportunity for the children of West Ridge. 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 and TIF funding.

The building is orange-rated and would qualify for Chicago Landmark Designation, Adopt-a-Landmark funds and other landmark incentives. It is adjacent to the Clark/Ridge TIF District which could potentially be another funding source.

Additionally, the Chicago Park District could rent out the beautiful historic building’s ballrooms for wedding receptions; much like Cafe Brauer in Lincoln Park which is a huge revenue generator.

Relocating the picturesque Tudor Revival style Chicago Town & Tennis Club building is a perfect solution for Emmerson Park and the West Ridge community. Located at 1925 W. Thome in Chicago, it was designed in 1924 by legendary architects George Maher and his son Philip Maher (contemporaries of Frank Lloyd Wright). George Maher was a seminal figure in both the Prairie style and the Arts & Crafts style movements across America.

This is an incredible opportunity to relocate a historic building and provide a safe haven for kids, expand after-school and camp programs to serve all of the children in the community.

“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 

City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development, TIF Assistance Approved for Park Improvement Projects, Press Release 5/20/20

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