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February 12, 2016

Report: Developer eyeing apartments for St. Laurentius

Kensington businessman would keep exterior intact, according to PlanPhilly

Development Churches
St. Laurentius  Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown.

A report from PlanPhilly says that a local developer is planning to keep the exterior of the historic St. Laurentius Catholic Church in Fishtown intact by turning the building into apartments.

The report, published Thursday, says that Leo Voloshin, who owns a textile design company in Kensington called Printfresh Studios, has entered into an agreement of sale with the Archdiocese to buy the shuttered church.

According to the website, Voloshin plans to keep the exterior of the church, which was designated as historic last year, in its current state. More from PlanPhilly:

He plans to meet with community groups and pursue zoning approvals over the next few months. Parts of the building will need expensive repairs, he said — though perhaps not as expensive as the Archdiocese has claimed in the past. Voloshin said he would also explore the possibility of including a commercial use in the project, but doesn’t think it’s likely. He doesn’t know how many apartments might be included.

Archdiocese spokesperson Ken Gavin confirmed that an agreement of sale "with contingencies" had been reached in an email Friday.

In a statement the Archdiocese is issuing to the media, which does not confirm that Voloshin is the prospective buyer, Gavin reiterated the unsafe conditions that forced the closure of the church in the first place.

"As you know, neither the owner of the former church building, Holy Name of Jesus Parish, nor the Archdiocese have the financial resources to make the necessary repairs," Gavin said.

St. Laurentius was closed in 2013, merged with nearby Holy Name and slated for demolition. However, a group dedicated to saving the church was able to secure a historical designation for the exterior.

A separate possible designation for parts of the interior is pending.

John Wisniewski, who has been an active member of the tooth-and-nail fight to save the church, said that apartments are not what he and his fellow parishioners had in mind when they started their efforts.

However, Wisniewski -- who stressed he has not yet met with Voloshin -- said considering the Archdiocese has no interest in utilizing the building as a church again, this could be an ideal compromise.

He said he hoped to meet with Voloshin and discuss what to do with some of the relics inside, including paintings.