Summary of the case against a hardship demolition:
Penn's 'hardship' at 400 S. 40th Street is being
challenged on the following grounds:
continued use of the surrounding properties, which are
similar in scale and zoning, contradict Penn's claim that there is no
market or viable use for the house.
- The owner limited the market by considering only large scale projects and the use an
outside developers and investors.
- Proposals to use the
property in a manner that essentially complied with the existing zoning
designation were ignored.
- A hardship should not be based on the
need of a developer to offer his investors an 11% cash on cash return.
- The Historical Commission clearly erred because the law requires an
owner to make a good faith attempt to sell, rent, and find other uses.
- Penn could sell the property, but has chosen not to. If sold for less than purchase price, that is the risk of the marketplace. That alone is not a hardship.
- Requirements for non-profits to show hardship include showing
that the sale, continuing
ownership, or reuse of the mansion would substantially harm their
mission. Penn and its subsidiary, OAP Inc., have not offered any
- Penn's head of real estate development admits OAP paid a
premium for the property and that the University has already benefited
from the purchase.
- 'The Community' does not favor demolition in exchange for this
proposed five story apartment building. That is not an exchange, nor was it
2003 the University of Pennsylvania's subsidiary, OAP Inc.,
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
the project by incorporating the house. This admittedly creative
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.