The fate of two historic Philadelphia buildings threatened with demolition is slowly playing out in the legal system.
The Woodland Terrace Homeowners Association, represented by attorney Paul Boni, has appealed two agencies’ decisions to the court. The group is seeking to stop the demolition of a historic mansion at 400 S. 40th Street. They had previously appealed the Historical Commission’s decision to approve the demolition permit to the Board of L&I Review; in a split vote, the Board ruled that the permit was not issued in error.
The same group also objected to zoning variances for the project that is proposed for the site, owned by the University of Pennsylvania and planned for development by Jonathan Weiss of Equinox. The project, contingent upon the demolition of the historic building, would be a five-story, 122-unit student apartment complex. The zoning board voted 4-1 to provide zoning relief for the project last November.
Woodland Terrace has appealed both decisions to Common Pleas. According to court documents provided by Paul Boni, Woodland Terrace is required to file a brief to the court by June 26th, Penn must file by July 26th, and oral arguments will then take place “anytime after” August 26th of this year. Arguments on the appeal of the Board of L&I Review decision will take place after October 7th.
The Callowhill Neighborhood Association, which has been fighting to keep the historic Church of the Assumption at 12th and Spring Garden from demolition, recently filed a brief in Commonwealth Court, according to Andrew Palewski, who wrote the Church’s nomination to the historic register.
A Common Pleas judge ruled last summer to uphold the Historical Commission’s granting of hardship to Siloam, the social services nonprofit that owned the building. The Church was since bought by developer John Wei, who pulled a demolition permit last fall. The Board of L&I Review issued a stay of demolition while the appeal of the Common Pleas decision works through Commonwealth Court.
Carl Primavera, who represents John Wei, and Samuel Stretton, who represents the Callowhill Neighborhood Association, were not available for comment on Thursday.
Jared Brey is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in Philadelphia magazine, Hidden City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & State, and other publications. He covered development, zoning policy, historic preservation, and city government for PlanPhilly from 2011-2016.