CHA okays demolition of South Side church building

Chicago Housing Authority officials this morning approved the demolition of a vacant and deteriorating church  that the agency purchased in 1993.

The 11,350 square-foot property at 3600 S. Vincennes Ave. is part of what is known as the Madden/Wells Revitalization Area in Chicago's South Side. The former church was built in the 1870s.

The building "has had little or no maintenance since its purchase," CHA records say.

CHA commissioners approved the demolition upon last week's recommendation of the authority's Operations and Facilities Committee. The board must now forward its demolition request to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, for final consent.

The decision came after a first request for proposals to redevelop the property failed, according to officials. The authority submitted a second one to satisfy the requests of the Chicago Department of Community Development's Landmarks Division and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which had already approved the demolition, officials said.

Records show that several fires have weakened the structure, the sides of the front entry have burned and collapsed, and the front wall stands alone without support. The property is open to squatters and vandals, according to documents, and entire sections of a chain-link fence have been stolen.

"This is an imminently dangerous situation that mandates an immediate response," CHA staff wrote in a request to authorize the demolition. "It cannot be left in its present condition."

During their monthly meeting, commissioners also approved a couple of six-figure modifications to construction work at other properties. Also known as change orders, the modifications will raise the price of previously approved projects by more than three-quarters of a million dollars.

The approvals came after committee members reluctantly recommended them last week.

Commissioner Michael Ivers, chairman of the Operations and Facilities Committee, discouraged CHA staff from allowing contractors to submit change orders to original cost estimates.

"This board doesn't like modifications," Ivers said last week, shortly before committee members unanimously approved them.

Board members also renewed two contracts to help relocate families forced to leave existing public-housing developments. The CHA's Plan for Transformation, begun in 2000, has involved the closure of several buildings for redevelopment and rehabilitation, and the ensuing transfer of thousands of families to other properties.

The two firms reapproved for relocation services were the Housing Choice Partners of Illinois Inc. and Uhlich Children's Advantage Network, also known as UCAN. Each received half a million dollars for work including lease compliance, community tours, placement and follow-up services. Both firms began their contracts with the authority in late 2008.

Staff Writer Adrian G. Uribarri can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 12, or adrian at chitowndailynews dot org.