Real estate exec says he’s offering the archdiocese $5 million to save building
March 26, 2013|By Rachael Levy, Chicago Tribune reporter
Even as the 19th-century pipe organ of a neo-Gothic Bronzeville church is being dismantled in preparation for demolition of the building, parishioners say they have not lost hope in saving St. James.Especially since they now apparently have a prominent Chicago real estate executive on their side.
The Friends of Historic St. James Church held an emotional prayer vigil Monday not far from laborers who were taking apart the church’s organ atop a partially gutted floor. The group again called for the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago to reconsider its decision to tear down the 133-year-old structure, which has been in disrepair for several years.
Joseph Cacciatore of Jos. Cacciatore & Co. real estate, who did not attend the vigil, told the Tribune he is offering the archdiocese $5 million in order to save the church.
Cacciatore said he is not a member of the parishioner group trying to save the church building but does attend services at St. James, which for several years have been held in a nearby hall.
Cacciatore would not detail his offer but said he remained hopeful that he could save St. James from the wrecking ball.
A representative of the archdiocese declined to comment on the matter. The archdiocese has estimated it would cost more than $12 million to restore the church.
Cacciatore, a South Loop resident, said he became interested in St. James after reading an article in the Tribune about plans to demolish the church.
“I was born and raised Catholic. I wear their jersey,” Cacciatore said.
The archdiocese got a permit to tear down St. James in December but agreed to hold off for 90 days. Now preliminary steps to demolition have begun. Asbestos abatement took place last week, and the pipe organ — which was featured at the 1893 Columbian Exposition — is being dismantled this week.
The church bells and other salvageable items are set to be removed next week, said Tom Kennedy, director of real estate for the archdiocese.
Kennedy said Monday that the archdiocese has not changed its plans to demolish St. James at the end of April.
“There is no organization within the city of Chicago or Cook County that spends more money on the preservation of structures than we do,” Kennedy said. “And in this particular case, the cost of the renovation and bringing it back to where it’s supposed to be way exceeds the cost of building them a new church on a better street.”
The archdiocese plans to replace St. James with a new building near the current site at 29th Street and Wabash Avenue.
“We’re smiling on the outside but crying on the inside,” said Fran Williams, a longtime parishioner who attended Monday’s vigil.