Demo Approval For 40th And Pine Mansion Upheld By L&I Board

 

400 S. 40th Street, an Italianate mansion designed by Samuel Sloan | Photo: Peter Woodall

400 S. 40th Street, an Italianate mansion designed by Samuel Sloan | Photo: Peter Woodall

The lengthy appeal of the demolition of the Levy-Leas Mansion in West Philadelphia came to a conclusion Friday afternoon with the Board of L&I Review ruling to uphold the Historical Commission’s finding of hardship for the University of Pennsylvania and allowing them to demolish the building for new graduate student housing.

The four board members were evenly split on the appeal, which meant the ruling went in favor of the defendants: the University of Pennsylvania, the owner of the property at 400 S. 40th Street; Azalea Gardens, the developer contracted by Penn; and the City of Philadelphia, representing the Historical Commission.

Shortly after issuing its ruling continuing the stay of demolition on Church of the Assumption, the board heard closing arguments from both sides in the case. Paul Boni, the attorney representing the Woodland Terrace Homeowners Association, argued that the Historical Commission erred in its hardship ruling. The Historic Preservation Ordinance states that the owner must show that sale of the property is impracticable and that there is no way to yield a reasonable rate of return through commercial rental. Boni claimed that Penn never made a good-faith effort to sell the property, nor had it been inventive enough in pursuing other uses for the mansion.

Atkin, Olshin Schade Architects rendering of the proposed 5-story, 122 unit apartment complex at 400 S. 40th St.

However, a property does not need to be explicitly advertised for sale to prove hardship, argued City solicitor Andrew Ross in explaining the Historical Commission’s ruling. There were several means of marketing a property in good faith that the Commission had deemed to be acceptable in previous hardship cases. That sentiment was echoed by Matt McClure, the attorney representing the developers. McClure also emphasized that Penn had explored ample scenarios involving various commercial and residential tenants, all of which showed that the building was incapable of being reasonably adapted for reuse.

McClure and Ross each expressed their pleasure at the Board’s ruling. Yet Boni was far from down and out, citing the 2-2 vote as a validation of his case, which he will continue to the Court of Common Pleas.

“We’re happy,” said Boni. “We’re confident in our arguments and optimistic about the success of our appeal.”

Boni has also appealed the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s decision to grant a variance for Penn to demolish the mansion and construct a student housing complex on the property.

The mansion was designed by Samuel Sloan and constructed in 1855. Preservationists cite it as one of the oldest outstanding examples of Italianate architecture in West Philadelphia.

About the author

Christopher Mote covers stories of preservation, planning, zoning and development. He lives in South Philadelphia and has a special fondness for brownstone churches and mansard roofs.

Send him a message at: motecw[at]hotmail[dot]com



Comments are closed.

Recent Posts
Temple To Get Its Boathouse Back By Next Summer

Temple To Get Its Boathouse Back By Next Summer

July 31, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Ground broken on Temple boathouse restoration, distillery to release Philadelphia-inspired gin, apartments beneath Manayunk’s elevated tracks, West Philly trolley tunnel closed for repairs, and the Independence Visitor Center reaches milestone > more

Initial Concepts For A Revamped Headhouse Square Revealed

Initial Concepts For A Revamped Headhouse Square Revealed

July 30, 2015  |  Morning Blend

A gateway planned for the Headhouse Shambles, Feibush still with more fight in him for 20th and Wharton proposal, fishing and the city, and crafting some of the world’s best guitars in Fishtown > more

A Spirited Quest: On The Trail Of Philadelphia's Distilleries

A Spirited Quest: On The Trail Of Philadelphia’s Distilleries

July 30, 2015  |  Behind the Facade

Craft beer may flow in Philadelphia's 21st century veins, but liquor manufacturing has a long, spirited history here. Nic Esposito gives a toast to the city's past, present, and future of distilling > more

Divine Lorraine Gets Go-Ahead From Architecture Committee

Divine Lorraine Gets Go-Ahead From Architecture Committee

July 29, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Blumenfeld gets design approval for Divine Lorraine reuse, reduced NIMBYism in Chestnut Hill, “toughest stretch” yet of Schuylkill River Trail opens, and ZBA stays true to height limits in Fishtown > more

The Devil Is The Detail

The Devil Is The Detail

July 29, 2015  |  Vantage

"Notorious" Devil's Pool? The most beloved place in the Wissahickon may suffer abuse and indignity every summer, but they are no match for its beauty and physiologic significance. Brad Maule defends the natural landmark > more

City’s Oldest Active Fire Hall Designated Historic

City’s Oldest Active Fire Hall Designated Historic

July 28, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Two of John T. Windrim’s buildings being preserved, an urban garden in Chinatown North, and learning another language through a mural > more