Fight For The Firehouse

Sign Our Petition

Since 1979, the Copernicus Foundation has been a boost to the vitality of the Jefferson Park neighborhood as well as other Northwest Chicago neighborhoods. For the history of the Copernicus Center click here.

There is an abandoned firehouse at 4841 N. Lipps, within 100 feet of the Copernicus Center campus, that the city is  prepared to sell in a negotiated sale to an outside developer, 4841 N. Lipps LLC. (Ambrosia Homes)  for only $1.00 even though the city appraised the property at $208,000.  The Copernicus Foundation has offered $300,000 but the bid has been rejected.  At the Chicago Plan Commission meeting on September 17th, when the Commissioners voted to sell the property to the outside developer, we feel that the story of Copernicus bid was not fairly presented.  The denial letter to the Copernicus Foundation can be read here. The denial reasons, were not accurate and that is why we feel our bid should be re-evaluated. Since there are still numerous steps to be taken before the sale is final, we are asking for your support to block the sale.

The architectural drawings of our proposed plan can be viewed by clicking here.

You can support us by signing our petition and asking your colleagues, friends and neighbors to sign the petition also.  After signing the petition you will be taken to a link that will allow you to send an e-mail directly to your Alderman.  At the Copernicus Foundation we feel it is very important that the property is “kept in the family” and not sold to an outside developer who does not care about our history and heritage.

Current Firehouse - Google Street View

Project Highlights of the Offer by Copernicus Center/Foundation

  • Offered purchase price of $300,000
    • An offer well in excess of the city’s appraisal of $208,000
  • Remain two-story structure
  • Restore/repair historical facade
  • First Floor:
    • Restaurant/brewery concept
  • Second Floor:
    • Four Residential Units
  • Outdoor dining areas in the front and back
  • Provide one parking space per residential unit
  • Rooftop terrace for residental use, added amenity
  • Property is located within 100 ft. of Copernicus campus
  • Allows Copernicus Center the opportunity to grow upon their campus footprint
  • No Balconies affecting the historical integrity of the building

Denial Letter & Response

What $300,000 is Worth to The City

When the city is in a budget crisis, an extra $300,000 might not seem like a lot of money in the face of a billion-dollar deficit, but  we researched the city salary database and discovered that $300,000 would pay the salaries of the following positions for a year:

Board of elections clerk, $30K;

Library clerk, $34K;

Department of health clerk, $35K;

Data entry operator, $36K;

Traffic enforcement technician, $40K;

Finance clerk, $42K;

Animal control aide $42K ;

Communications operator at OEMC $42K. 

Eight City of Chicago employees could have their salary covered by our $300,000 payment.

Architectural Drawings

History of Copernicus

In 1970, the City of Chicago turned to the Polish community with an offer to locate a statue of Nicolaus Copernicus, world-renowned Polish scientist and the Father of Modern Astronomy, at the entrance to the Adler Planetarium. The statue would be erected to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Copernicus’ birth. Copernicus is credited with “stopping the sun and starting the planets in motion in the minds of man.” This project raised over $300,000 from individuals, corporations, and other organizations, and the statue was dedicated in 1973, at no cost to the city. It sits proudly in front of the Adler Planetarium.

The Copernicus Foundation was chartered as a non-profit organization in July 1971 to serve the metropolitan Chicago area as a major civic, cultural, educational, recreational and entertainment resource.

With seed money from the excess funds raised for the statue, a search began in 1977 for a permanent site to house a Polish cultural center in Chicago. In 1979, the foundation purchased the old Gateway cinema building located near Milwaukee and Lawrence avenues.  The historic portion of the building housed the first movie theater in Chicago built exclusively for the “talkies.”  The Copernicus Foundation chose to preserve the theater itself while remodeling around it, dividing the original 40-foot entry lobby and constructing three floors of office, meeting rooms and classroom space. The Copernicus Center was born. This first stage of remodeling was completed in 1981.

The next remodeling stage was completed in 1984 and in 1985, “Solidarity Tower,” with its matching facade, was erected atop the building. The exterior of the building was modified to resemble the historic Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland. The tower is a scale replica of the clock tower adorning the castle – it can be seen from the Kennedy Expressway by all that make their way between downtown Chicago and O’Hare airport.

Since then, a thrust stage was added with dressing rooms and up to date light and sound systems.  The theater has been utilized for a wide variety of programs, not only Polish in nature, but a vast mix of uses by theatrical groups, schools, symphonies, modern rock concerts, beauty pageants, fashion shows, body building tournaments, international music stars, local musicians, and even the President of the United States.

Today, the former cinema house rarely shows movies but is used an average of 48 weeks per year, with the heaviest usage during the weekends. The programs have become more sophisticated in nature and serve many more people. The theater seats 1852 and has been named the Mitchell P Kobelinski Theater honoring one of the Center’s founding fathers who spearheaded the renovation and modernization of the theater.

Since 1980, the Copernicus Foundation annually fulfills its mission for education and entertainment in another way, by sponsoring the annual TASTE OF POLONIA FESTIVAL. During the festival there is a wide variety of live entertainment, food vendors serving the best of Polish cuisine, over 30 local and international bands playing a variety of genre, performances by ethnic dancers and musical groups, original arts and crafts, handiwork, imported items, as well as exhibits familiarizing festival goers with many aspects of Polish customs, culture, traditions and language. It has grown to be the largest Polish Festival in the country; visited by over 35,000 annually.

In 2011 the Copernicus Center expanded by completing the renovation of the Annex which houses a brand new “loft type“ meeting or event space with hardwood floors, bare brick walls and wood beamed ceilings. In addition, the Annex houses the offices of several local Chambers of Commerce as well as many prominent Polish organizations.

The Center is now alive virtually every night with dance groups, classes and theatrical activities. Many options for venue rentals are now available to the public, in addition to the grounds and facilities used for community programs. Among annual activities sponsored by the Foundation are: art fairs, special exhibits, Farmer’s Markets, health fairs and seminars; free adult ESL (English as a Second Language) classes; citizenship classes; Annual Law Fair; various community seminars and meetings.

The long-range plans of the Foundation Board, always mindful of its mission to serve the greater Chicagoland area, ensure that these services will continue well into the 21st century. A boost to the vitality of Jefferson Park and the Northwest Chicago neighborhoods, the Copernicus Center, a concert, culture, and community center, is a monument to the Polish American community and its desire to retain its rich heritage while serving, and entertaining, the residents of Chicago at large.

Community Involvement

– President Obamas address on immigration issues

– Fair Housing Seminar (Chicago Lawyers Committee)

– First Responders Charity Fundraiser 

– Events Sponsored for the City of Chicago (Mayoral ForumsSmall Business Expo, Town Hall Meeting with mayor Rahm EmanuelTown Hall Meeting City of Chicago Budget ProposalChicago Police Fraud Seminar)

– Events Sponsored for the State of Illinois (Northwest Cook County GOP Primary Candidate Forum, State of Illinois Tall Hall Meetings (Tax Reform), How to Appeal your Property Tax Assessment, DACA and DAPA Information Session, Seniors Assistance Seminar)

– Events Sponsored for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation (Rock the Badges Fundraiser Events)

 Events Sponsored for Jefferson Park (Jefferson Park Flea Market, Christmas Market, Jeff Fest, Fall FestivalJefferson Park Property Tax Appeal SeminarsJefferson park Chamber of Commerce Meetings, Networking Events, etc.)

– Events Sponsored for the 45th Ward (45th Ward Polling LocationFree Flu-shot VaccinationsAldermanic DebatesAffordable Care Act Free Seminar)

– Events Sponsored for PACBA (OSHA Respiratory Fall Protection Forum, Annual Construction and Safety EXPO)

– Polish American Association Events (Free Seminar: Purchase and Sale of Real EstateEducational Seminars on Basics of MedicarePhysical Therapy Assistant and Health Information Technology, Seminar on becoming a legal or medical interpreterHow to Start a Business Free SeminarFAFSA Information SessionEmployment and Consumer Rights Free SeminarStudent Visa Information SessionEducational Opportunities for Children in Public Schools SeminarNursing License Info Sessions, Coalition of Limited English-Speaking Elderly Free Info Session)

 Sponsor of English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes 

– Sponsored Events for Performing Arts Programs (Ukrainian School of Dance RecitalsLittle Stars Children’s Theater companyPaderewski Symphony Orchestra, Lajkonik Song and Dance EnsemblePolonia Song and Dance, Chicago Children’s Choir Concert, Lira EnsembleThe Gift Theatre)

– Classical Music Organizations: Lincolnwood Chamber OrchestraChicago Philharmonic SocietyAnthony Kawalkowski Orchestra)

– Ingenuity (Ingenuity’s mission is to ensure that every student, in every grade, in every school, has access to the arts as part of a well-rounded education. As Chicago’s leader in arts education, Ingenuity focuses on four primary strategies) – Concert hosted as Copernicus

-Informational Panel Discussions: Power of Identity Panel; where Dona Urbikas recounted her experience being a slave laborer in Siberia

– National Veterans Art Museum NVAM is dedicated to presenting veteran-created art inspired by combat and military service. The art in our collection is primarily from U.S.-based artists (Networking and community events hosted at Copernicus)

– Sponsored Events for Chicago Coalition To Save Our Mental Health Centers: BINGO

– Sponsored Events for Institute for Community Empowerment : BINGO

– Chicago Chopin Society: Chopin in the City

– Georgian Cultural Center: Tbilisi, Georgia Flood Relief Benefit Concert 

– Consulate General of India in Chicago: Kala Utsav Event (Kala Utsav is an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to promote arts in education by nurturing and showcasing the artistic talent of school students at the secondary stage in their country)

– Women Without Borders is an international nonprofit organization that empowers women to change the world since 2001 (Women’s Festival)

– Life for Relief Development: Life for Relief and Development was founded in 1992 by concerned Arab-American professionals in response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Iraq (Charity Concerts)

– Lydia Home Association: Lydia provides an integrated, holistic approach to help children recover from the emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse they’ve endured (Fundraiser Celebration)

– Garrido Stray Rescue Foundation: Fundraiser Event

Home and host to the following organizations:

– Polish American Chamber of Commerce
– You Can Be My Angel Foundation
– Advocates Society
– Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce

Donated funds to local food pantries and churches:

– St Cornelius Food Pantry
– St John Berchmans Food Pantry
– St. Faustina Church
– St. Priscilla Church
– St Hyacinth Church