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
Renovations In Bella Vista Reveal Barber Supply And Bootlegging Biz

Renovations In Bella Vista Reveal Barber Supply And Bootlegging Biz

September 25, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow takes a spin around the old Via Bicycle shop on 9th Street where a barber supply company peddled boozy contraband during Prohibition > more

Without Remediation, Diamond In The Rough A Risky Play

Without Remediation, Diamond In The Rough A Risky Play

September 22, 2017  |  Vantage

How safe is safe enough? Environmental researcher Coryn Wolk explores the potential public health risks at a youth baseball field built on top of an industrial alloy production site surrounded by an oil refining complex > more

Wayne Junction Moves Forward With Revitalization

Wayne Junction Moves Forward With Revitalization

September 20, 2017  |  News

Developer Ken Weinstein unveils transit-oriented development plans for Wayne Junction district. GroJLart has the story > more

Inside Northeast Philly's Temple Of Ryerss

Inside Northeast Philly’s Temple Of Ryerss

September 19, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us on a fall field trip to the Ryerss Mansion, an eccentric, little-known house museum in the Great Northeast > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Locust Theatre

Unlisted Philadelphia: Locust Theatre

September 14, 2017  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places with his architectural illustration series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, a marvelous movie house in West Philly > more

Monument Lab: A City-Wide Art Museum That Asks Us To

Monument Lab: A City-Wide Art Museum That Asks Us To “Leave Fingerprints”

September 13, 2017  |  Vantage

We ought to write our own history, say the organizers of Monument Lab, who launch their multi-week public art and civic introspection festival today in the wake of Charlottesville, Dallas, and Durham. Nathaniel Popkin catches up with Monument Lab founder Paul Farber, who asks us all, "What is an appropriate monument for Philadelphia today?" > more