In an old city with a tight budget and crumbling factories from another era, City Council is considering a smart bill which would force commercial and industrial building owners to take out a coinsurance policy so Philadelphia could press for basic maintenance and security. If the building is deemed a hazard, the insurance would help cover demolition.
The Nutter administration has yet to weigh in on the bill saying it wants to consider the legal and planning implications. But if it finds flaws, it should figure out ways to fix them.
Philadelphia's old lunch pail neighborhoods, especially those along the Delaware River, are lined with empty factories casting wide shadows on residential neighborhoods. Last month's Thomas W. Buck Hosiery factory fire was a painful reminder of how dangerous those buildings can be. Two firemen died in the April 9 fire and occupied homes in the immediate area were threatened.
Though Buck's owners were planning to convert the building to condominiums hoping to cash in on Philadelphia's growing young population, other large structures are going nowhere but down. Too many owners have stopped paying taxes and ensuring that their structures are safe. Those owners, whether they are developers waiting for a neighborhood to come back or bankrupt businesses, are ultimately responsible for what happens to their property. The bill sponsored by Council members Maria Quiñones Sánchez, Bill Greenlee and Marian Tasco, forces owners to take responsibility, maintain buildings and make sure they are secure. If windows and doors let in interlopers, owners must seal them with 14 gauge steel.
This creative solution is part of an encouraging city strategy to free Philadelphia from the burden of its past failures to attack blight and abandonment.