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Historic Spring Garden Street Church Gets Another Demolition Stay

(The former Church of the Assumption, at 12th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia.  Credit: John Ostapkovich)

(The former Church of the Assumption, at 12th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia. Credit: John Ostapkovich)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The 160-year-old Church of the Assumption, at 12th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia, will be spared the wrecking ball at least for now, following a ruling this afternoon from the city’s L&I Review Board.

Without any public debate, members of the L&I Review Board offered a mixed ruling to the owner of the Church of Assumption — who wants to tear it down — and those fighting to save it.

The board said the demolition permit obtained by the owner is valid, but they put a stay on the permit until the court battles are resolved.

“That building remains, and it’s a very positive thing for historic preservation,” said Sam Stretton, attorney for the Callowhill Neighborhood Association, which opposes the demolition.

“We’re pleased that they found that the permit is properly issued by L&I, but we’re obviously concerned that they issued a stay,” said attorney Carl Primavera, who represents the church’s current owner, John Wei.  “That means that even though we have the right to the permit, we can’t utilize it, and the building is in dangerous condition.”

Primavera said had the permit been upheld without a stay, the owner would have proceeded with demolition (see previous stories).

Now, though, the attorney says he’ll ask a judge to force the neighborhood opponents to pay for a bond to cover any potential issues resulting from the delay in the demolition.

Stretton, meanwhile, said the demolition opponents may attempt to purchase the site outright.

“Our people might be interested in buying the building.  If they are, hopefully that might resolve some of the issues,” he told KYW Newsradio.

But for now, the matter heads back to court.

The Church of the Assumption was consecrated by John Neumann, and was the site of Katherine Drexel’s baptism.  Both Neumann and Drexel are now Catholic saints.

Wei, the owner, says he wants to demolish the church because simply stabilizing the structure would cost millions of dollars.

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