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February 23, 2016

Fate of Shrine Unclear as City Approves Demolition

Last Thursday, the Archdiocese of Chicago received a permit from the City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings to demolish the Shrine of Christ the King at 64th Street and South Woodlawn Avenue.

While the permit grants the archdiocese permission to move forward with the demolition process, the archdiocese has yet to release a formal statement regarding its plans for the building. “We are in talks with the leadership of the Shrine of Christ the King about an alternative arrangement and will provide further information as soon as it is available,” a spokesperson from the archdiocese said.

Church leadership, the archdiocese, and community organizations have been debating the fate of the church since it was severely damaged by a fire in October. The church leadership and community have been advocating for the archdiocese to delay demolition in order to provide more time to examine alternative solutions.

Although the Shrine became a landmark in 2003, the City declared the building unsafe after the fire, which stripped it of its protected status. The archdiocese first filed for a demolition permit in early January.

This action prompted the formation of the Coalition to Save the Shrine, a group of parishioners and community members in favor of protecting the 92-year-old building. In the time between the filing and approval of the permit, the coalition maintained an active social media presence to gain support within the community and reached out to several historical preservation societies for support.

One such society, Preservation Chicago, has received a total of $650,000 in anonymous donations for the purpose of saving the church. This sum is separate from the additional $70,000 raised on the GoFundMe page that the church organized soon after the fire.

“We hope the Archdiocese will recognize that concrete sources of funding for the repair of this Landmark building are indeed forthcoming, given a reasonable timeframe,” Coalition member Emily Nielsen said.

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