Community meeting held on plan to demolish Monastero’s and build church
by BRIAN NADIG
The Monastero’s restaurant and banquet facility at 3935 W. Devon Ave. would be demolished under a proposal to build a 50-foot-tall church and community center there.
The Monastero’s family plans to close the restaurant at the end of the year after 55 years in business and sell the property to the Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church, 4850 N. Bernard St. A zoning change is required to accommodate the size of the planned church, which would be designed for up to 1,000 people.
Several residents raised parking and traffic concerns during a June 14 community meeting which Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) held on the project. Some residents said that alleys along the property could become congested on weekends.
About 170 parking spaces are planned, about 50 more than required under the zoning code, according to project attorney Paul Kolpak. The main parking lot would be located behind the church, which would be situated along Devon.
The parking would be accessed from Devon Avenue and Pulaski Road via existing alleys. A driveway on Devon which restaurant patrons currently use would be eliminated.
Elim senior pastor Cristian Ionescu said that there would be attendants directing vehicle and pedestrian traffic on weekends and that members would arrive and leave at different times, as the church would include areas for congregants to socialize before and after services.
Ionescu added that major events would not be held during the week and that the church would only fill up only a couple of times a year for holidays. He said that many of the congregants live in the area and would be able to walk to the church.
The church plans to explore the possibility of leasing additional parking at Foster Bank, 4001 W. Devon Ave.
Laurino said that her office will work with the church to make sure that the community’s concerns are addressed. “We’ll see what we can do to make it a better flow of traffic,” she said.
The church was founded in 2001 and initially held services at Taft High School before moving to Albany Park in 2002. It has about 900 members, including a large number of immigrants from Romania.
It also was reported that the church plans to acquire a commercial property to the east of Monastero’s where a landscaping service is located.
Construction on the project is expected to start next spring. The church is seeking to rezone the property from B1-1 to the less restrictive B1-2, and a special use permit to allow religious assembly in a business district would be required.