Fourth Presbyterian unveils new addition

Plans met with applause at community meeting

08/18/2010 10:00 PM

By Jennifer Slosar
Contributing Reporter

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The 5-story proposed addition will sit just south of the church with an exterior of copper, glass and reclaimed limestone.

Fourth Presbyterian Church will soon construct a sleek new addition to the storied gothic campus with the green courtyard at Michigan and Chestnut. The church’s development team and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) introduced the planned expansion to general applause at a community meeting held Tuesday night.

The five-story, 82,000-square-foot structure will sit just west of the present building and stretch from Chestnut to Delaware. It will present a modern backdrop to the historic church, which fronts Michigan Avenue’s bustling shopping district with gothic arches and a limestone façade.

“We have outgrown the space very significantly including the 1950s addition that sits on Delaware directly west of this building,” said Rev. John Buchanan, pastor at Fourth Presbyterian. “We’ve grown from 4,900 to 6,300 over the last 10 years and much of that growth is comprised of young adults and young families with children.”

Classrooms, an updated preschool facility, meeting rooms for area community groups, a versatile chapel that can accommodate over 250 people, and a dining room and kitchen will be included in the new building.

In addition to being “family and children-focused,” the new building will be “truly multi-purpose,” Buchanan said, providing more space for the church’s extensive adult education classes and social service programs that serve more than 4,500 needy people annually.

Fourth Presbyterian had famously been foiled in previous attempts to expand. Past campaigns, which included a proposal to sell air space to a developer who would build a 62-story tower, met resistance from neighbors and two consecutive aldermen, who raised concern about height, density and traffic impacts.

“I can tell you, in general, I think that this is a good proposal, an appropriate proposal for the neighborhood, especially in contrast to previous iterations,” said Ald. Reilly.

The new building, designed by Gensler, a global architecture firm, will be clad in weathered copper, glass and reclaimed limestone. A two-story connector building will link the old structure with the new. A glass wall on the east facade will showcase the church’s activity to people on Michigan Avenue.

In addition, the new building will aim for LEED silver certification, with three green roofs visible to high-rise neighbors overlooking the facility.

“The biggest question we faced was ‘How to integrate a contemporary building into a historic gothic campus?’ said Brian Vitale, leader of the Gensler design team. “Our response was really to complement rather than mimic.”

The copper patina on the planned structure echoes green copper found throughout the church on dormers, downspouts, lanterns and even the organ pipes, said Vitale. The wall facing Chestnut will contain a tall vertical window evoking the church spire. Semi-public green spaces and “gothic proportions” will also tie the new structure to the old, he said.

Rev. Buchanan the estimated cost of the new building at $32 to $34 million, with improvements to the existing church bring the total project goal to $48 million.

Once Ald. Reilly assured a skeptical resident that the church would not seek to expand above the five-story design, talk at Tuesday’s meeting turned to traffic and construction concerns.

Bob Wislow, CEO of U.S. Equities Reality and program manager for the project, assured residents and congregation members that construction would occur “over a compressed period of time.”

Demolition of three buildings on the property—additions dating from the 1950’s to the mid 1990s-- is slated for the start of next year, with some prep work getting underway this October.

Wislow said he expects exterior construction to be completed by December 2011, followed by approximately six months of work on the interior.

Turner Construction, currently managing the renovation of Odgen Replacement Elementary School at 24 W. Walton, has been designated the construction team.

Nick Cannelis, project manager at Turner, said the paved parking lot on the western end of the property will provide a convenient staging area for demolition, keeping equipment off the street. Trucks delivering materials and picking up debris will be routed west down Chestnut from Michigan Avenue.

Cannelis said the company would respect the Chicago noise ordinance, with work hours generally limited to between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Several residents raised concerns about truck traffic during construction. One resident suggested that the right turn on red provision be eliminated to prevent conflicts between pedestrians and trucks turning right onto Chestnut off of Michigan.

Ald. Reilly said he would discuss that option with the transportation department.

Church officials said a study conducted by traffic engineering firm KLOA concluded that traffic will diminish once expansion is complete. That’s because the church plans to eliminate a current day care program that generates approximately 50 drop-offs and pick-ups. In addition, plans call for a recessed dock off of Delaware to be only half the size of the current dock, reducing the number of trucks that currently back up there.

“We’re very encouraged by this proposal, and there seems to be a lot of support within the community already,” said Brian Hopkins, president of Streeterville Organization of Active residents, a neighborhood group that opposed previous high-rise projects for the site.

“We’ll look at the traffic study, but obviously there’s a dramatic difference, between, say a 70-story building and a five-story building in terms of traffic impact,” Hopkins said.

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