Appeal Filed To Save Norris Square Banks


Photo: Hidden City Daily

A. Jordan Rushie, the Fishtown lawyer representing two residents of Hope Street near Front in Norris Square, Karen Lewis and Carmen Bolden, has filed an appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s August ruling in favor of demolishing two historically and architecturally significant banks at Front and Norris. The August ruling would allow the Women’s Community Revitalization Project to construct 25 units of low-income housing on the site.

The appellants contend that the project was approved over the strong opposition of neighborhood groups, including New Kensington CDC and East Kensington Neighbors, and that, furthermore, it is WCRP’s duty to prove that a change in zoning at the site to allow for the residential units was a financial hardship. According to Rushie, they contend that instead, “the ZBA pushed the burden on those in opposition to show why WCRP should not be granted a variance. The ZBA should have placed the burden on WCRP to show why there is an undue hardship to use the property commercially, which my clients contend WCRP could not demonstrate. Commercial development makes the most sense under the El.”

The appellants also believe the site short-changes the potential low-income residents, cramming them into a space under the El, when there are acres of vacant land nearby. The site should remain commercial, they say, siting the 100 or so businesses that operate under the EL, nearby.

The monumental banks, built for financial institutions that supported the neighborhood’s historic textile trade, are in severely compromised condition. Purchased by the Norris Square Civic Association, the organization that still holds the note on the property, in 1989, they were allowed to deteriorate despite potential deals to rehab and reuse them. The two buildings are part of a proposed textile industry thematic federal historic district that is proposed by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

The appeal date has not yet been set.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. His essays and book reviews appear in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, The Millions, and Fanzine.


  1. Good for the residents to appeal this. It is very upsetting when organizations let beautiful buildings deteriorate and then later claim hardship and demolish them. This is unacceptable. It is great they are working to help low-income individuals, but they should keep a broader viewpoint of how their actions affect the Philadelphia Landscape as a whole.

  2. THAT’S RIGHT…APPEAL THIS DECISION!! Lots of mty places to build ugly housing , why knock down these two buildings ? Mothball them for now , build housing on all those mty lots , and when you get a critical mass
    Of people in the areal some one will want to develope those properties. Or you can give them to a real organization like unv of penn to reuse as long as they save them.. Why would you destroy these two when you have MANY mty lots? SIMPLE ! FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL. who’s been paid off ? Who’s on the take , who benefits from the destruction of these two buildings…. Some ones palm is getting greased!! And the public gets screwed…….

  3. Great job again. Thank you Hidden City .. I sure hope this appeal puts these people in there place this issue should have never gone this far,But here it is keep us posted !


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