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Preservation Alliance and cathedral reach settlement over of historic buildings.

3/22/2013 | Real Estate Blog

Two historic townhouses on the corner of 38th and Chestnut streets are soon to be replaced by a new high-rise development that will turn the brownstones in modern commercial space. The 25-story tower will reportedly include apartments, church offices and retail space.

The Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, in its application for demolition, said that the project was being undertaken as it does not currently produce enough income to support the preservation of the cathedral and its community programs. A new structure, church leadership feel, will provide essential facilities and funding. The development is expected to bring in a steady stream of income to provide for maintenance and preservation of the cathedral and the services it provides.

The decision to demolish the historic townhouses was not met with approval by all. The Preservation Alliance chose to challenge the Philadelphia Historic Commission’s decision to grant permission for demolition. The decision to approve demolition had been based on a city ordinance providing to no historic building can be demolished “unless the Commission finds that issuance of the building permit is necessary in the public interest.”

While the Philadelphia Historical Commission felt the proposed demolition was in the public interest because it would allow a building of much greater significance to be preserved, the Preservation Alliance felt that the public interest ruled out the destruction of two buildings in order to save a third. The Alliance’s case was dismissed, though, after it failed to meet its burden of proof.

A settlement was eventually reach, though, between the cathedral and the Alliance involving a 50 year agreement to preserve the cathedral and a commitment to maintain the building and continue using it as a place of ministry.

Source: The Daily Pennsylvanian, “High-rise to replace two 38th and Chestnut brownstones,” Samantha Sharon, March 21, 2013