March 27, 2016

Mystery buyer saves Fishtown church from demolition

Neighborhood Preservation Alliance celebrates victory for E. Montgomery Ave. M.E. Church

Preservation Churches
032716_FishtownMEchurch Source/Google Maps

East Montgomery Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church at 1775 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown.

The East Montgomery Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in Fishtown will be preserved after a mystery buyer stepped in last week to acquire the property for $675,000.

Constructed in the late 1850's and 1860's, the church on Frankford Avenue had been slated for demolition to make way for four duplexes in the rapidly developing neighborhood. The developers had purchased the 6,200-square-foot property last November for $1,000,000, but neighborhood groups fought the demolition and the church was placed on the market again for $795,000.

Last Tuesday, the Neighborhood Preservation Alliance announced that the church was purchased by an undisclosed buyer and will remain standing as a result of a clause written into the agreement of sale.

This is a significant victory in our urgent and continuous fight to preserve the historic built structures and cultural integrity of the neighborhoods of Philadelphia. This is also a model of how developers and neighbors can work together to achieve a common goal. Both the actions of our group and the developer’s broker, Ori Feibush, remained committed, civil, respectful and diplomatic throughout the entirety of the challenging process of negotiating not only the sale of the church but also to adjustments of the existing designs of the adjacent new-construction projects at 1775 Frankford Ave.

According to The Spirit, the NPA went to great lengths to preserve the structure after demolition permits were issued for the property in late January. The group, comprised of 16 Fishtown residents, launched a Change.org petition to 5th District Council Representative Darrell L. Clarke, picking up more than 600 signatures before entering into discussions with Feibush.

Though not a historic property, the building's mid-19th century Ecclesiastical Architectural style is a significant beacon of the neighborhood's past. Similar community action went into the historical designation of Fishtown's St. Laurentius Roman Catholic Church, which survived the prospect of demolition last July and is currently under consideration for conversion into apartments by a local Kensington business owner. 

As the sensitive relationship between civic groups and religious institutions continues to draw battle lines across Pennsylvania, the preservation of the East Montgomery Ave. M.E. Church offers an example of how community groups can cooperate to reach outcomes that reflect the wishes of neighborhoods in regards to the unique value of each property in question.