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philadelphia flower show 2009 from march 1-8 by the PHS at the convention center at 12th & arch streets. proceeds go to greening efforts by the PHS. Theme of the year is Bella Italia Credit: Priscilla des Gachons , Priscilla des Gachons

The future of the Penn-owned historical mansion at 400 S. 40th St. is still being contested after years of legal battles.

After Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler ruled on April 9 that the historic mansion on the corner of 40th and Pine streets could be demolished, the lawyer representing a group of neighborhood residents said they plan to appeal the ruling.

Paul Boni, who represents the Woodland Terrace Homeowners Association, said his client plans to appeal the case to Commonwealth Court, one of the two higher appellate courts in Pennsylvania.

Penn and the property’s developer, Equinox Properties, have been involved in a legal battle with neighborhood residents to gain permission to tear down the mansion and build an apartment complex to serve as graduate student housing.

Penn’s Executive Director of Real Estate Ed Datz said in an emailed statement that, because the Court of Common Pleas “affirmed earlier decisions in support of development,” the University plans to move “towards construction,” and “no further action is anticipated by the City, Penn or the Developer.”

The mansion was designated a historical site in 1973, which means that special permission is required to demolish it. Penn bought the property in 2003.

In 2012, after many previous proposals, a plan to build a 122-unit, five-story building to serve as additional student housing was approved by both the Philadelphia Historical Commission and the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which decides zoning appeals.

The Woodland Terrace Homeowners Association appealed that ruling on two fronts, Boni said. First, they believe Penn did not demonstrate the “financial hardship” necessary to receive relief from the laws preventing demolition of a historical site.

The other front for appeal is that the proposed building violates zoning rules. Earlier this year, Judge Ceisler issued a split decision on this, sending it back down to the Zoning Board of Adjustments for further hearings.

Boni said the Homeowners Association is open to further discussion and compromise on the size of the new addition, noting that the proposed building “is just so big and so dense.”

“We’re hoping to keep talking about it,” Boni said. “We all want what’s best for the neighborhood.”

From Penn’s side, Datz said the University “ha[s] and continue[s] to work on alternatives in an attempt to address the concerns of the opposition group.”

“Penn and the Developer are committed to find[ing] a development solution that improves the corner of 40th & Pine,” he added.

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