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Old 04-10-2016, 05:24 PM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,632 posts, read 12,795,075 times
Reputation: 15763

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I am a property owner in West Philly's University City. I am unabashedly proud of the charming and elegant 19th Century Victorian architecture and ambiance of our West Philly neighborhoods. I serve on the board of the University City Historical Society.

Just slightly north and west of Drexel University on Lancaster Avenue is an entire block of pristine unadultered c.1870 storefronts with apartments above ... popularly called "Lancaster Mews." The Block is attractive, well maintained and in a remarkable state of preservation. All of the storefronts are rented and there are some smart upscale restaurants on the block and the upstairs apartments as well.

Last fall the city included Lancaster Mews on the city's register of historic buildings (it was already listed on a National Register ... but that has little meaning apparently; only structures on the city list can be saved from demolition.)

That is not the end of the story ...

Inga Saffron noted in her Inquirer column last week that the developers are still appealing the historic designation and want to demolish the entire block. They are making a small concession by issuing a plan with renderings that will preserve the actual storefront architectural facade ... but knock down 9/10th of the rest of the structure. Interestingly the storefronts would be a false facade - they want no ground floor retail spaces, only rental apartments.

I believe Lancaster Mews must be saved. So many fine Victorian buildings have vanished from West Philly as developers are eager to throw up rental apartment buildings aimed at students, staff, faculty of the area's universities and hospitals. One example was the c.1853 John P. Levy mansion at 400 S. 40th Street built by famous architect Samuel Sloan. So many (not all) of the newer buildings in my opinion are downright crappy looking.

What is your opinion?
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Old 04-10-2016, 06:58 PM
 
Location: Dude...., I'm right here
1,245 posts, read 800,892 times
Reputation: 736
I remember the first time I visited Oxford and I was really taken back with the way they had preserved their buildings and streets. I was young at that time and I thought to myself then, if I had the powers I would change this and bring Oxford into the 20th Century. As I've grown older I've come to appreciate Oxford and I don't harbor the same views. And frankly speaking, I've stopped caring about how buildings look like. If someone want to build a phallus shaped skyscraper, it's all good.

However, culture is dynamic and we are no longer living in the Victorian age. I'm all for the preservation of history but there has to be limits. If the city doesn't want the buildings destroyed, they should offer an alternative site to the developers at the city's cost. The property rights of the Lancaster Mews owners need to be respected.

Personally, I would not buy an old house because of several reasons. I can imagine, the Lancaster Mews owners have got good reasons for the re-development. Plus it will also bring in more tax dollars to the city.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Park View Post

Inga Saffron noted in her Inquirer column last week that the developers are still appealing the historic designation and want to demolish the entire block. They are making a small concession by issuing a plan with renderings that will preserve the actual storefront architectural facade ... but knock down 9/10th of the rest of the structure. Interestingly the storefronts would be a false facade - they want no ground floor retail spaces, only rental apartments.

I believe Lancaster Mews must be saved. So many fine Victorian buildings have vanished from West Philly as developers are eager to throw up rental apartment buildings aimed at students, staff, faculty of the area's universities and hospitals. One example was the c.1853 John P. Levy mansion at 400 S. 40th Street built by famous architect Samuel Sloan. So many (not all) of the newer buildings in my opinion are downright crappy looking.

What is your opinion?
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Old 04-11-2016, 04:53 AM
 
10,279 posts, read 5,943,675 times
Reputation: 3643
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1ondoner View Post
I remember the first time I visited Oxford and I was really taken back with the way they had preserved their buildings and streets. I was young at that time and I thought to myself then, if I had the powers I would change this and bring Oxford into the 20th Century. As I've grown older I've come to appreciate Oxford and I don't harbor the same views. And frankly speaking, I've stopped caring about how buildings look like. If someone want to build a phallus shaped skyscraper, it's all good.

However, culture is dynamic and we are no longer living in the Victorian age. I'm all for the preservation of history but there has to be limits. If the city doesn't want the buildings destroyed, they should offer an alternative site to the developers at the city's cost. The property rights of the Lancaster Mews owners need to be respected.

Personally, I would not buy an old house because of several reasons. I can imagine, the Lancaster Mews owners have got good reasons for the re-development. Plus it will also bring in more tax dollars to the city.
Actually the project probably won't bring more tax dollars to the city since the project will, more than likely, be eligible for the 10 year tax abatement on new residential construction.
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Old 04-11-2016, 08:27 AM
 
Location: Dude...., I'm right here
1,245 posts, read 800,892 times
Reputation: 736
So, does every new RE project qualify for tax abatement? IMHO, tax abatement means the project is not financially viable and does not address the underlying economic issues. It just kicks the can down the road.

I think tax abatement promotes un-affordable housing because home builders put up expensive homes with low tax burden front loaded.


Quote:
Originally Posted by kyb01 View Post
Actually the project probably won't bring more tax dollars to the city since the project will, more than likely, be eligible for the 10 year tax abatement on new residential construction.
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Old 04-11-2016, 09:08 AM
 
10,279 posts, read 5,943,675 times
Reputation: 3643
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1ondoner View Post
So, does every new RE project qualify for tax abatement? IMHO, tax abatement means the project is not financially viable and does not address the underlying economic issues. It just kicks the can down the road.

I think tax abatement promotes un-affordable housing because home builders put up expensive homes with low tax burden front loaded.
Google it on the city website and elsewhere. Lots of information.
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Old 04-11-2016, 03:59 PM
 
Location: Midwest
1,283 posts, read 1,882,384 times
Reputation: 970
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1ondoner View Post
does not address the underlying economic issues. It just kicks the can down the road.
The underlying economic issues are being solved by the candy-drink and cigarette taxes I think....
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Old 04-11-2016, 09:12 PM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,632 posts, read 12,795,075 times
Reputation: 15763
To be clear I want to say that I am not a "NIMBY" type. West Philly is not Colonial Williamsburg and of course I expect new construction. There is a shortage of housing for the many students, staff and faculty at the Universities and the Hospitals. In just the past two years we've seen tall projects going up at Chestnut Street and the Schuykill River, at 34th and Lancaster across from Drexel, 3737 Market, next to the Episcopal Cathedral at 36th and Chestnut, etc.

Frankly I think it is not impossible the developers will overbuild and there will be a glut of apartments.

Some buildings are so fine consideration must be given to preserving them. I believe Lancaster Mews fits that description.
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Old 04-12-2016, 06:13 AM
 
10,279 posts, read 5,943,675 times
Reputation: 3643
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1ondoner View Post
So, does every new RE project qualify for tax abatement? IMHO, tax abatement means the project is not financially viable and does not address the underlying economic issues. It just kicks the can down the road.

I think tax abatement promotes un-affordable housing because home builders put up expensive homes with low tax burden front loaded.
The abatement program has been around for about twenty years. Those early beneficiaries should be paying taxes by now. Plus all residential properties were re-assessed, upward, a couple of years. So some of those properties will have a hefty tax bill eventually.

I agree with your last statement. But the abatement did jump-start gentrification in the city.
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