COULD ANOTHER savior be out there ready to finally end all talk of razing the Church of the Assumption?
After the city's Board of Licenses and Inspections Review voted Monday to grant a temporary stay blocking a demolition permit issued to the new owner, John Wei, activists said they would try to persuade Wei to sell the church to someone who will restore it.
"If he were to sell the church and wanted to continue with his plans to develop the convent and rectory into apartment buildings, then having the church there would make his other properties more valuable," said Sarah Mc-Eneaney, president of the Callowhill Neighborhood Association.
She and Andrew Palewski, an architectural preservationist who petitioned to have the church placed on the city's Register of Historic Places, said that someone is interested in buying the church, but neither would identify the prospective buyer.
The church, on Spring Garden Street at 11th, was built in 1848 and is believed to have ties to two Philadelphia Catholic saints: John Neumann and Katharine Drexel.
Wei's firm, MJ Central Investment LP, paid more than $1 million for the church and adjacent buildings in July.
When Wei posted a demolition notice on the church in November, Samuel Stretton, attorney for the Callowhill group, filed for a stay in Commonwealth Court. The court denied Stretton's stay, because Wei is a new owner, but the Board of L&I Review granted a stay until a Jan. 8 hearing.
Wei said that at first, he didn't plan to demolish the church. He wanted to convert the convent and rectory into apartments, he said, but the Department of Licenses and Inspections told him he couldn't build anything on the site because the church has several code violations.
"They gave me two choices: I could repair the church or demolish it," Wei said.
Wei said it would take up to $6 million to restore the church, but Palewski said that was an estimate for total restoration of the church. He said it would cost about $1 million to stabilize it.