POTENTIAL WIN: INVEST South/West Generates Two Options for Pioneer Bank for Adaptive Reuse

Potential Redevelopment Rendering by Hispanic Housing of Pioneer Bank. Pioneer Trust and Savings Bank Building, 1924, Karl M. Vitzthum, 4000 W. North Ave. Designated a Chicago Landmark in 2012. Rendering Credit: Hispanic Housing

Pioneer Trust and Savings Bank Building, 1924, Karl M. Vitzthum, 4000 W. North Ave. Designated a Chicago Landmark in 2012. Photo Credit: Debbie Mercer

Pioneer Trust and Savings Bank Building, 1924, Karl M. Vitzthum, 4000 W. North Ave. Designated a Chicago Landmark in 2012. Photo Credit: City of Chicago

“The city is asking residents of West Humboldt Park and the surrounding area to weigh in on a pair of competing development proposals for the old Pioneer Bank site.

“Hispanic Housing Development Corp. and Park Row Development are vying to redevelop the bank site at 4000 W. North Ave. and 1616-38 N. Pulaski Road, which has sat vacant for 13 years. The two developers submitted development proposals through Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative, which aims to revitalize neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

“Hispanic Housing is looking to transform the bank building into a Latino cultural hub with offices for PrimeCare Health and Rincon Family Services on the upper floors and a public library on the ground floor. The nonprofit developer also wants to build an 11-story, 76-unit affordable housing complex on the site to the north of the building. The complex would house the performing arts studio En Las Tablas and Repertorio Latino Theater Co.

“Park Row Development, on the other hand, has a vision for the bank building that includes offices for a Latino-led nonprofit, entrepreneurial incubator space and a Latino cultural center. Under Park Row’s plans, a 75-unit affordable housing complex with a Humboldt Park Family Health facility and possibly a library would open on the site north of the building.

“The former Pioneer Trust & Savings Bank was built in 1925 and designed by architect Karl M. Vitzthum during the “golden age” of banking, when banks were designing grand buildings to “signal to the banking customer the notion that their money would be safe and the bank was here to stay,” city officials said in a report. The bank earned city landmark status in 2012.

“Puerto Rico-based bank Banco Popular took over the landmarked bank building in the mid-’90s as Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican population grew. Banco Popular called the building home until 2008, when it moved across the street.

“In recent years, the site has languished. Pulaski Investments, owner of the site since 2015, has struggled to redevelop the building and the surrounding lots, city officials have said.” (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 9/30/21)

Preservation Chicago has been concerned about the cluster of historic buildings at the intersection of North Avenue and Pulaski for many years including the Pioneer Bank at 4000 W. North Avenue, the Pioneer Arcade at 1535 N. Pulaski Road, and the New Apollo Theater at 1536 N. Pulaski Road. All three architecturally significant buildings have suffered from deferred maintenance and long periods of vacancy.

Despite its lengthy vacancy, The Pioneer Bank was not included as a Chicago 7 Most Endangered because it was protected by a Chicago Landmark Designation. Neither the Pioneer Arcade and New Apollo Theater are landmarked and are at significant risk of demolition.

Preservation Chicago strongly supports the City of Chicago’s Invest South/West program which has proactively identified architecturally significant buildings located in communities of disinvestment. The program focuses the resources of the City of Chicago to stabilize communities and promote healthy communities by leveraging the power of historic preservation. It would be great to see a community or cultural use such as a library in the main lobby banking hall of the Pioneer Bank.

This is an ideal development project for INVEST South/West and we strongly applaud Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox for selecting Pioneer Bank for the program. We recognize and applaud their strong leadership in ensuring a outstanding outcome for the building and community, and their commitment and efforts to strongly reinvest in Chicago’s neighborhoods. We hope to see a successful adaptive reuse of the Pioneer Bank, followed by successful renovation and landmarking of the Pioneer Arcade and New Apollo Theater.

The Pioneer Arcade was designed by architect Jens J. Jensen in 1925 and was a Chicago 7 Most Endangered in 2015. The Pioneer Arcade’s façade is one of Chicago’s best examples of 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture with exuberant terra cotta work that rivals of some of Chicago’s finest 1920s movie palaces. The New Apollo Theater was designed by architect William A. Bennett in 1914 and was also a Chicago 7 Most Endangered in 2015.

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

West Humboldt Park Residents Consider Competing Proposals For Pioneer Bank Site; Residents can fill out a survey on two proposals that include space for Latino cultural hubs and affordable housing, Mina Bloom, Mina Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 9/30/21

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