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Neighbors oppose plan to build residences at site of 19th-century church

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The church will be razed to make way for the homes

via Google Streetview

A hotly-debated plan to build two multi-family residential buildings at the site of what is now the 130-year-old Christian Street Baptist Church, got a resounding “no” from neighbors at a community meeting this week.

Parking, building height, and an increase of cars in the area were among some of the neighbors’ concerns, according to Bella Vista Neighborhood Association President Eugene Desyatnik.

The proposal was presented by developer Ori Feibush, who hopes to raze the church and, in its spot, build two townhouses, totaling four floors with eight residential units. Along with the building, the plan calls for eight off-street parking spaces, accessible by a driveway off Salter Street.

The future of the site and the 19th Century church has been the cause of debate and concern ever since the congregation, finding upkeep to be too financially difficult, listed the building for sale last year. Feibush had it under contract almost immediately, and announced plans to raze the building to make way for residences, unless a buyer steps forward. Feibush, who bought the church for $1.5 million, told Curbed Philly that he’s willing to part with it for $1 million, but hasn’t yet found a buyer.

While the decision to demolish the church is a controversial one, it wasn’t the focus of this week’s meeting. Instead, residents looked at the potential problems with the construction. One concern was with the height of the buildings—the proposal says they’ll be 48 feet, but the area is only zoned for 38-foot buildings.

Another major concerns was with how the construction and parking would affect driving in the area, according to Desyatnik. Neighbors were concerned that the parking lot would increase the number of cars driving down the small South Philly streets, and that another garage could increase the number of accidents and crashes in the area, Desyatnik said.

Feibush, who did not return calls for further comment Thursday, has a meeting with the Zoning Board of Adjustment next week, but may push it back following the community meeting, Desyatnik said. Desyatnik added that it’s “not fully clear” what Feibush plans to change about the Church Street proposal, but that it’s likely the parking space will remain part of the plan.

  • Bella Vista church re-lists in latest twist of preservation battle [Curbed Philly]