40th and Pine Streets, Philadelphia

Challenge to Penn's Hardship Claim

When demolition of the house was proposed for the purpose of creating a 120 unit apartment building, this was a red flag.  Demolition of Philadelphia Certified Historic Properties is not permitted except in special circumstances.  One of these special circumstances is a hardship where the owner is going to be substantially harmed and there are no alternatives in the market place.  So, in a neighborhood full of occupied old houses, the claim that an apartment building was the only viable use for the property flew in the face of common sense.  Take a look around the neighborhood...
400 S. 40th Street from Baltimore Ave
portion of 4000 Block of Pine St. North Side
View from Baltimore Avenue.   Late 19th-century twins fit the local pattern of development.
North side of the 4000 block of Pine Street. Neighboring houses on the South side of Pine Street that are also part of the Hamilton Family Estate National Register District. 
Look at more nearby houses
Summary of the case against a hardship demolition:
Penn's 'hardship' at 400 S. 40th Street is being challenged on the following grounds:

In 2003 the University of Pennsylvania's subsidiary, OAP Inc., purchased the property. The property has been minimally maintained ever since. In 2007, a developer selected by OAP attempted to decertify the property for the purpose of building a high rise hotel. When decertification failed, they tried to save the project by incorporating the house.  This admittedly creative scheme involved reworking the high rise as 'an addition'.  Finally, in 2009 Penn withdrew its support for the project, seemingly to avoid decisions by the ZBA and L & I Review Board in favor of the Pine Street and Woodland Terrace neighbors.

But in 2011, a seven-story apartment scheme was unveiled. Initially this one was also an 'addition' to the house. It managed to squeak out a non-binding 'concept approval' from the Historical Commission.  However, this new project found not even a token of support in the surrounding community.  Unfortunately, Penn did not recognize that one of the core problems was the attempt to rezone to high density.  So in an attempt to address simply the height issue, Penn now claims to have met the community's objections by sacrificing the mansion for a shorter, squatter version of the same project.   We are not impressed.

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