St. James Parish can begin razing vacant school building
St. James Parish received permission Tuesday from the Arlington Heights village board to begin demolishing its 91-year-old vacant school building to make way for a church addition and more parking.
The additions on the south and east sides of the 66-year-old church building at 831 N. Arlington Heights Road will increase seating to more than 900 from about 500, add handicapped-accessible features including an elevator along with a larger first-floor lobby, and more lower-level multipurpose/meeting space.
To make way for a larger parking lot and a new stormwater detention area, St. James purchased two single-family homes that abut its southern property line. The parking lot will have about 50 more spaces, for a total of 185, while parking will no longer be available on Arlington Heights Road during Sunday Masses, officials said.
Along with approvals of variations for the project, village trustees also required that the parish pay the expected $2,000 annual cost for maintenance of an existing traffic light they believe primarily benefits the church and its school.
The project was approved 8-1, with Trustee Thomas Glasgow casting the lone "no" vote, saying the church shouldn't have to pay for the street signal.
The Rev. Matt Foley, the church's pastor, said Northwest Community Hospital, for instance, isn't held to the same standard -- and doesn't have to pay for the signal at the entrance to its property.
But most village board members disagreed because the hospital provides emergency medical care to the community.
The board did agree to take out another condition proposed by the village staff -- that St. James be required to explore aligning its main parking lot drive aisle with the traffic signal, in an effort to lessen the amount of traffic that would pour onto neighborhood streets after Sunday services.
But Matt Hichens, the project architect, said such a drive aisle would extend to a proposed south-side entrance overhang, and be as close as three feet from the door of the new building addition.
Several trustees said it could lead to more congestion and safety problems.
"I wonder if we're solving one problem and creating another," Trustee Richard Baldino said.
Demolition of the old three-story brick school building is set for next month. It hasn't been used by students for about a decade, after an addition was built on St. James' junior high school across the street.
Construction of the church addition could start as early as April, after approval of a final plat of subdivision. It is scheduled to be done in March 2019.
During construction, all Masses will be held within the parish center across the street.