Private pickleball club proposed for closed Saint Cornelius Church in Jefferson Park
by BRIAN NADIG
A private pickleball club for a group of about 30 people is being proposed for the closed Saint Cornelius Church, 5430 W. Foster Ave., in the Jefferson Park area.
Plans call for the two pickleball courts to be installed in the former sanctuary of the church, which closed several years ago. The former Saint Cornelius School, 5252 N. Long Ave., is now the Catalpa Early Learning Center, which is operated the Chicago Public Schools.
A suburban man is planning to purchase the church from the Archdiocese of Chicago and to seek a zoning change to allow for participant sports (indoor) on the site. The proposal calls for the property to be rezoned from RS-3 to B2-1.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said that he will hold a community meeting on the proposal before making a final decision on whether to support the plans. He added that benefits of the project include that it would preserve the exterior of the church and that it would not be disruptive to the community in terms of parking and traffic.
Under the proposal the club would be available only to its members, who have been described as a group of friends looking for an indoor place to play pickleball during the winter. The fast-growing sport has been described as a combination of tennis and ping bong.
Membership dues would be intended to cover property taxes and maintenance costs. There would be 24-hour surveillance cameras throughout the site, and members would make reservations online and then use a key card to enter the facility.
The courts would not be available to the general public, but the project’s developer reportedly would be open to allowing community meetings and other events inside the former church.
The site includes 32 parking spaces. Improvements to the exterior or the church and landscaping enhancements are planned under the proposal.
The roots of the Saint Cornelius Parish date back to 1925 when Cardinal George Mundelein appointed Father Luke Lyons to create a new parish for the English-speaking residents of Jefferson Park. Its first Mass was celebrated on Oct. 24, 1925, in the assembly hall of Beaubien School, 5025 N. Laramie Ave.
By 1926, Saint Cornelius had its own church and school and by the 1930s the parish had 800 families and a school enrollment of 400.
In the 1960s additional land on Foster Avenue was acquired for the construction of a new church, which can accommodate 750 worshippers. It includes a lower chapel.
During the 1980s parish membership at Saint Cornelius grew to 2,500 families, and the school, located at 5252 N. Long Ave., reached its largest enrollment of 850 students in the 1960s.
In 2015 its school was closed, and the church was closed a few years later, consolidating with the former Saint Thecla and Saint Tarcissus parishes. The consolidated parish is called Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity.