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Homes inside renovated churches are popping up all over Chicago

Written by
Grace Perry

Most Chicagoans are familiar with the idea of living in a converted warehouse, but what about an old church? Over the past five years, the city’s real estate market has experienced an intriguing new trend: As beautiful places of worship are shuttered and abandoned, developers are swooping in to convert them into stunning homes.

At first glance, the architectural elements are appealing—ornate windows, soaring ceilings and original wood beams—but what’s it really like to live in a renovated church? When 32-year-old investment banker Adam Green was looking to buy his first condo, he knew he didn’t want a traditional three-flat. "I just wanted a building that looked unique," he says.

Green toured timber lofts and old warehouse conversions, but nothing took. Eventually, he found what he was looking for at Sanctuary on the Square at 2900 W Shakespeare Ave, a 10-unit renovated church in Logan Square. The condo won him over with its 22-foot peaked ceilings, 100-year-old exposed brick, steel beams and gigantic living room windows.

Scott Broene and Bill Senne of Property Consultants Realty purchased the Logan Square property in 2015 with the intent of remodeling it into condos. The church, built in 1908, had been deemed a landmark in the city of Chicago, meaning the structure couldn’t be demolished. For Broene and Senne, that meant creating a condo complex within the existing brick walls.

“You’re basically building a building within a building,” says Broene. The partners gutted the entire space, built new cement columns as central support and created a steel superstructure within the edifice.

To Green, the church is just another old repurposed structure, like a warehouse or factory, albeit one with distinctive architectural features.

“It’s so funny because I don’t think about it at all,” says Green. “It just looks like a nice old building. There’s no religious symbolism; it really resembles more of an industrial, repurposed old building than a church.”

Separating the church’s architectural beauty from its past spiritual purposes allowed Green to find his dream home. “It’s not a church to me anymore—it’s just my space,” says Green.

Photograph: Chuck Gullet

Photograph: Chuck Gullet

Photograph: Chuck Gullet

Photograph: Chuck Gullet

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