Kenilworth Union Church is taking a literal route to building up its community.
After years of internal discussions, the church has a plan in motion to demolish a neighboring home and build a two-story addition to its facilities at 211 Kenilworth Ave. KUC officials shared their proposal with their community during the church’s annual meeting on Sept. 24.
“Just as our homes must be maintained so must our spiritual home — Kenilworth Union Church,” the presentation says. “… Like generations before us, we must invest to restore and adapt our church facilities.
“Our calling: Sustain a vibrant Kenilworth Union, sharing Christian values and playing a vital role in our community for years to come.”
According to the plans, the new two-story building would be 11,740 square feet and include two multi-purpose spaces and restrooms on the first floor and a music room, children’s chapel and fellowship room on the second floor. In connecting the building with the church, KUC also wants to add a corridor between the spaces and another youth space in the basement, while also renovating areas in the main church building.
The addition would have an independent entrance off Warwick that would feature a circle drive for drop-off and pick-up, which church officials say will increase safety and access.
The project must gain approval from the Village of Kenilworth. Thus far, the village has approved the consolidation of the two plats: 211 Kenilworth Ave. and 417 Warwick. The proposal is slated to appear before Kenilworth’s Architectural Review Board on Oct. 4 and Zoning Board of Appeals on Oct. 3. The recommendations from those groups would be passed to the Kenilworth Village Board.
Additionally, the Village’s Building Review Commission determined in November 2022 that 417 Warwick held historical and architectural importance.
The home was designed by Franklin Pierce Burnham and built in 1892. It also has ties to Kenilworth forefather Joseph Sears. Its first owners were Samuel and Abigail Barry, the parents of Helen Barry, who became the wife of Sears. Helen Barry Sears then lived in he home from 1917-1932 following Sears’ death.
Kenilworth Union Church, also a historical site, purchased the home from the Porta family in 1984, and since, the building served as a home for the church’s clergy through 2013 and is now used as a space for the church’s youth group activities, according to Village documents.
The church’s historian found that the home — as one of few examples of classical revival style designs in Kenilworth — met one criteria for historical significance; however, a village consultant suggested the home also met other criteria.
Residents at the commission meeting questioned the church’s need for extra space. Church representatives said the structure at 417 Warwick has a compromised foundation and the church has attempted to save it.
Commissioners voted unanimously to give the home a historical designation, delaying demolition for at least one year. As the one year mark approaches, Kenilworth Village Manager Patrick Brennan said the church had indicated its intentions to raze the building.
It is unclear how much it will cost to construct the addition, but the church has a special web page dedicated to fundraising for the project.
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