POTENTIAL WIN: INVEST South/West Prioritizes Pioneer Bank Building for Adaptive Reuse

“A plan to transform a vacant bank building into affordable housing aimed at preventing displacement is headed to City Council for a vote after being unanimously approved by the housing committee Wednesday.

“The city’s planning department began seeking developers for the affordable housing project in the spring. The project would involve the Pioneer Trust & Savings Bank building and surrounding lots in the 4000 block of West North Avenue and the 1600 block of North Pulaski Road for developers to build on.

“Next week’s City Council vote would allow city officials to buy the property just in case the developers cannot do so on their own.

“The plan is part of the city’s Invest South/West initiative to target the long-neglected stretch of the North Avenue corridor that was once an economic backbone for the West Side.

“‘It’s the most prominent structure on North Avenue,’ said Mike Parella, a project manager for the planning department. ‘Its redevelopment … would be vital for securing a vibrant future for the neighborhood and its existing residents.’

“The project would turn the Pioneer Bank building into a Latino Heritage Center and include the construction of a building to the north of the bank, with all units dedicated to affordable housing.

“The five-story Pioneer Bank was constructed in 1925 in a neoclassical architectural style. The building has been a Chicago landmark since 2012, but it has sat vacant for 13 years.

“The current owner of the bank building and surrounding lots, Pulaski Investments, has been unsuccessful in redeveloping the properties, Parella said.

The city’s request for proposals for the Pioneer Bank project is open until August, when the city will begin the process of selecting a developer. The selection process and the final design of the redevelopment project will incorporate community feedback, Parella said.” (Sabino, Block Club Chicago, 7/16/21)

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.

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.

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.

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

City Plan To Turn West Side Bank Building Into Affordable Housing And A Latino Heritage Center Moves Forward; The project would involve the Pioneer Trust & Savings Bank building and surrounding lots near North Avenue and Pulaski Road, Pascal Sabino, Block Club Chicago, 7/16/21

(Former) Pioneer Trust & Savings Bank Building Final Landmark Designation Report, April 5, 2012 

Pioneer Arcade and New Apollo Theater Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2015 Summary

The Pioneer Arcade, 1925, Jens J. Jensen, 1535 N. Pulaski Road. Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2015. Photo Credit: John Morris
Concerning exhibit from the Request for Proposals for the Pioneer Bank issued by City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development on April 23, 2021 which shows the nearby Pioneer Arcade building as a possible site for new six-story building. The Pioneer Arcade, 1925, Jens J. Jensen, 1535 N. Pulaski Road. Chicago 7 Most Endangered 2015. Photo Credit: John Morris

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