Civic group, developer reach agreement about future of historic Wissahickon property

A civic group's efforts to save a 19th-century Roxborough house have led to an agreement with the owner and developer to renovate the property with "historic sensitivity" and thereby maintain the block's distinctive character.

The agreement came in late July as the two sides were preparing to plead their cases in the Court of Common Pleas over a permit to allow the complete demolition of the property at 145 Sumac Street. The Wissahickon Interested Citizen's Association was seeking an injunction to revoke the demo permit issued by the Department of Licenses & Inspections on the grounds that it had been issued in the name of the demolition contractor, who had been replaced twice. L&I told WICA that it considers the property owner as the holder of the permit.

The agreement reached by WICA, the owner, developer and the city halts the demolition of the house, which has been described by historic preservation experts as an excellent and rare example of Eastlake Victorian architecture in the Wissahickon area.

Jeffrey Allegretti, a member of WICA who wrote the historic nominations for the house at 145 Sumac and its twin home at 147, said that as part of the agreement the nominations have been tabled. The Philadelphia Historical Commission's committee on historic designation had voted in June to recommend that the two houses be designated by the full Commission.

The owners of 147 Sumac still live in their home and it is not part of any development plans.

In return for halting demolition of 145 Sumac, WICA also agreed to support a zoning variance application that would increase the number of new homes built on the site by owner John Messing and a development company owned by Boris Kaplun and Eugene Ziverman. Their original plan had called for razing the house at 145 Sumac and replacing it with 10 new residential units. The agreement allows for two more residential units. An attorney representing the owner and developers did not return calls for comment on the agreement.

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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

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