By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Demolition of an historic Philadelphia church could begin as early as today, but a local civic association is hoping the city’s L & I Review Board will intervene in time.

The L&I Review Board was scheduled to decide this afternoon on whether to rescind the demolition permit and thereby halt the demolition, at least temporarily.

The battle to preserve the 164-year-old Church of the Assumption, at 11th and Spring Garden Streets, has raged on for four years.   It has ties to two local saints, Katherine Drexel and John Neumann.

The financially strapped nonprofit group “Siloam” got approval two years ago to demolish the historic landmark, which it owned at the time.  The Callowhill Neighborhood Association got that order overturned, but that ruling was later reversed.

The neighbors appealed, and Chinatown investor John Wei bought the property, further complicating matters.  “He told the Callowhill Neighborhood Association he was interested in preserving the building,” says Andrew Palewski, a member of the neighborhood association.

Palewski says they were shocked when Wei got a demolition permit last week (see related story).  The association is challenging Wei’s permit in an L&I Review Board hearing set for this coming February, but is hoping to get a stay of the church’s demolition until the appeal can be heard.

“As far as I know, demolition has not started on the church, at least not at this point in time,” Palewski said this morning.

Wei declined to comment other than to say the demolition effort is still “pending.”

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