Two churches near Penn’s campus face an uncertain future in the coming months.
There are plans to demolish the Fortieth Street M.E. Church at 40th and Sansom streets to make room for a 7,000 square feet retail space that will include new stores and eateries with glass storefronts and an outdoor seating area.
The church was constructed in 1872 in the spot that’s now located near the Radian and Fresh Grocer. It has served three congregations in over 135 years. The church was designed by architectural firm Sloan & Hutton, which also designed the Kelly Writer’s House.
P&A Associates purchased the building in 2007, and the demolition project has been in talks for a few years. In November 2011, HiddenCity reported the project would begin by the end of 2011.
Peter Shaw of P&A Associates said this week that the demolition should take place within the month.
“It will be a nice physical amenity for the area,” said Shaw.
The Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, which includes several buildings on the 3700 block of Chestnut Street, may soon see a similar fate.
In June, the Philadelphia Historical Commission approved the demolition of the church’s parish house and rectory, but sparing the cathedral. The proposed demolition would make way for a 25-story apartment building as well as office and retail space.
However, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia — a preservation advocacy organization against the demolition — appealed the decision to the Licenses and Inspections Review Board, which hears appeals from various city agencies.
Executive Director of the Historical Commission Jonathan Farnham said in an email that the Board has only met once to hear the case, and that no work will commence at the property while the appeal hearing is active.
While he declined to comment further on the appeal, he said at the time the Commission approved the demolition, it had deemed it “necessary in the public interest.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the cathedral and its private development partner, Radnor Property Group, had agreed in June to put a portion of profits they make from the proposed commercial development into repairs for the cathedral’s bell tower.
Judith Sullivan, dean of the cathedral, declined to comment while the appeal is still ongoing.
Penn professor of historical preservation Aaron Wunsch sees these demolition proposals as “part of a pattern that a well-equipped preservation system [in Philadelphia] could prevent.”
He added that the “40th Street corridor,” which extends two blocks in both directions from that street, is under “extreme development pressure” and that the city “has not prepared to address the preservation challenges that have arisen out of these developments.”
Editor’s Note: A photo that misidentified the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral has been taken down.
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