For the leaders of St. Nikola Serbian Orthodox Church in Brookfield, it turns out that getting the cold shoulder from the archdiocese on buying the St. Barbara Church campus was a blessing in disguise.
Although it would have served the growing Serbian congregation well from a facilities standpoint, it looks like they’ve landed a more suitable, entirely contained chunk of property at 43rd Street and Joliet Avenue in Lyons – the recently decommissioned St. Hugh Parish property –for their future growth.
Officials of St. Nikola until about a year ago appeared ready to commit to Brookfield for the long term. They had submitted and won village approval for a plan to build a new church at their south Brookfield property – which in the past decade grew to include four neighboring single-family homes. All of the land was owned free and clear.
But the return on the cost to build such an edifice – with no guarantees from the village on what they might be able to do to convert the existing buildings for other uses, such as a school – apparently had them switching gears.
They thought they’d found “the future,” as the church board’s president called it last August, in the form of St. Barbara Parish, which came with a church, school building, social hall, rectory and a convent that could be used to house those seeking transitional housing as they immigrated here from Serbia.
However, the archdiocese wasn’t ready to sell St. Barb’s lock, stock and barrel. But the archdiocese just so happened to have about 2.5 acres of parish real estate nearby. After turning down St. Nikola in Brookfield last November, it took just four months to close the deal on St. Hugh.
Closer to home, the sale of St. Hugh has a couple of potential local benefits. First, a good portion of the sale proceeds will go to St. Paul VI Parish, the entity created last year with the merger of St. Hugh with St. Mary in Riverside and Mater Christi in North Riverside. That’s quite a windfall for a suburban Catholic parish, and one they’ll be happy to incorporate in their various ministries.
Renovating the buildings at St. Hugh will be no small task for St. Nikola officials, who apparently would like to open a school and operate other programs in the parish buildings, which include a gym and social hall. The old rectory will also be an ongoing maintenance project.
We assume (as the church’s board president told us last summer) that the purchase of the new land will mean the sale of the Brookfield property. That provides a real opportunity for Brookfield to get those parcels of land back on the tax rolls.
It’s a corner site in a great location in an otherwise completely residential district next to a park and a school. Residential real estate developers will be salivating at the prospect.
You don’t get many chances like that in a built-out Chicago suburb.