On Girard Avenue near Fourth Street, where Northern Liberties and Kensington meet, development has been flourishing for the past year. There’s a new pet-grooming salon, two beauty parlors, and apartments between Fourth Street and Orianna Street on the north side of Girard Avenue.
But some parts of the block still lack the benefits of development dollars.
On the evening of Aug.16, without warning, the brick wall of a long-vacant and apparently neglected building at 325 W. Girard Ave. collapsed, dumping bricks onto the street.
“From the basement, it sounded like somebody was falling down the stairs – boom boom boom boom,” said Rain Thomas, a stylist at a beauty parlor next door who was working in the basement at the time of the incident.
The partial collapse occurred around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16.
“It was just a real loud bang. Then I looked out the door, and saw firefighters running,” said Amelia Breslin, owner of Poochie’s Place Pet Salon at 4th Street and Girard Avenue.
No one was injured during the incident.
Carlos Sanchez, listed in property records as the owner of the property, was cited on Aug. 16 by the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspection (L&I) and informed that his building was “imminently dangerous.” He was given 10 days to apply for a demolition permit or to bring his building up to code.
That time limit expired on Monday, Aug. 26. As of Monday, Sanchez had not applied for a demolition permit.
Now, L&I will pursue an expedited court action to compel Sanchez to demolish the property, or they will undertake the demolition themselves and charge Sanchez for the work, according to L&I spokeswoman Rebecca Swanson.
“We’re monitoring the site. We are in contact with the owner,” Swanson said. “We will step in when we have to.”
Sanchez could not be reached for comment. No one answered the phone number for Pedro Palmer Construction listed on signs at the work-site.
But some neighbors were concerned that Sanchez may do more harm than good if he is compelled to demolish the property.
“I hope, if they’re going to have him demolish it, they stay on top of him,” said neighbor Judy Robinson. “I don’t think anyone could or should trust Carlos Sanchez to do anything right.”
It’s not the first time this property, located at Girard Avenue and Orianna Street, has been a problem for the neighborhood.
Breslin said that during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, bricks fell off the building and damaged cars on the block.
In 2010, the building located at 323 W. Girard Avenue totally collapsed.
“At that point, he only did a partial correction. And it fell down later. Which to me shows a history of the guy not giving a damn,” Robinson said.
Leah Murphy, co-chair of the South Kensington Community Partners’ zoning committee, said they would monitor the status of this property going forward.
“We’re trying to keep an eye on it. It’s really unfortunate when people don’t keep their buildings up to code,” Murphy said.
Sanchez is listed in city records as the owner of 323, 325, and 327 W. Girard Ave. 323 is currently a vacant lot. Adjacent to 323 Girard Avenue, on Orianna Street, is the Sabina Rose Memorial Garden, which was created in memory of a young Northern Liberties woman who was murdered in 2010.
Swanson said both 325 and 327 may need to be demolished, as there may be structural damage to the wall they share.
City records show dozens of L&I violations served to Sanchez’ properties at Orianna Street and Girard Avenue over the years, and also show that he owes about $62,000 in back property taxes.
Robinson said she recently complained to the city about a rat infestation at Sanchez’ building, but due to a lack of faith in the city’s enforcement of construction codes, she did not complain more about the obvious shoddiness of the blighted building.
“I did not call because I knew my other neighbors had called and I knew that L&I had been out and repeatedly wrote up the building for building code violations, and I understand that without a wider city policy with regards to blighted properties, that was all they could do,” Robinson said.
Speaking last week, Robinson pointed out that the building had been in the same condition for a full week since the collapse, with the interior of the building exposed and rubble scattered below.
“It’s a safety hazard. He could’ve killed people. Nobody should be surprised if that happens if something isn’t done quickly,” Robinson said. ••