Northeast Times

Blighted wall collapses; neighbors hope for action

After a va­cant build­ing in North­ern Liber­ties par­tially col­lapsed on Aug. 16, the city seeks to com­pel the own­er to have it de­mol­ished. 

The par­tially col­lapsed prop­erty at 325 W. Gir­ard Ave, seen above on Aug. 20, has been de­clared “im­min­ently dan­ger­ous” by the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions and the own­er will be sued to de­mol­ish his prop­erty. STAR PHOTO / SAM NE­W­HOUSE

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. ••

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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