Pilsen Food Pantry at odds with Chicago Archdiocese over future of building
CHICAGO (CBS) -- A food pantry in the Pilsen neighborhood has been operating out of a vacant Chicago Archdiocese building, and said they had an agreement with the Archdiocese to buy the building.
But after a formal offer was submitted, leaders with the food pantry say the Archdiocese has not responded.
As CBS 2's Charlie De Mar reported Monday, the Pilsen Food Pantry moved into the former Holy Trinity Croatian Roman Catholic Church, 1850 S. Throop St., at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leaders at the food pantry say they had a verbal agreement with the diocese to lease and eventually buy the property. They now accuse the diocese of hunting for the highest bidder.
The Pilsen Food Pantry Feeds about 400 people a week.
"It's busier than we ever thought," said Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, founder and director of the Pilsen Food Pantry.
Those facing food insecurity have come to rely on the program.
"I just didn't think it would be so hard to do good," Figueroa said.
Since March 2020 - the onset of the pandemic - Figueroa's food operation has used the vacant Archdiocese property on Throop Street.
Last February, Figueroa said the pantry formally offered the diocese about $3 million for the property
"We have really struggled to have transparent and open communications with the Archdiocese from Chicago," Figueroa said.
Figueroa says the diocese hasn't as much as responded to their offer - and with concerns over gentrification in Pilsen, she worries whom the building will be sold to.
"The Archdiocese has a history of selling unused places of worship to developers and changing them into luxury residential housing," Figueroa said.
The St. Ann Church, also in Pilsen, and the Holy Name Cathedral parking lot are just two Archdiocese properties sold to developers in recent years.
In a statement, the Archdiocese of Chicago said they have not finalized plans for the former Trinity property - pointing out that the pantry has not had to pay rent. The statement read in part:
"The parish has generously spent nearly $200,000 to subsidize gas, electric and water utilities, insurance and services, such as garbage pickup and maintenance.… The parish will alert the food pantry when there are more specific plans."
"I have no issues with them wanting to sell it to whomever they want to sell it to, but they should be transparent - and we shouldn't have come into the building at all," Figueroa said.
More than 3,000 people have signed an online petition supporting the food pantry. They are asking the Archdiocese to come to the table and negotiate in good faith.
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