Recent roof failures have accelerated the planned demolition of the Broad Street Armory, a process attracting heightened scrutiny in the wake of the Market Street building collapse that killed six people.
The Armory site's developer and attorney say they are taking extra precautions in tearing down the four-story, dilapidated brick building, built in 1886.
It could come down as early as next week, and neighbors have raised concerns about containing a demolition in the heart of South Broad Street.
The armory, on the 1200 block of South Broad Street, is next to Torre Big and Tall clothing store, a small apartment building, and a Lukoil gas station. Its rear wall is almost touchable from the back porches of the homes to its immediate east on Juniper Street, though the wall will be maintained at the neighborhood's request.
The armory was purchased June 17. The owner, Michael Carosella, originally planned to tear it down later this summer to make room for an apartment building.
But that changed the day after the sale when city engineers discovered that the roof had caved in. Demolition of the armory is now "imminent" and will hopefully be completed within the next two weeks, said Vincent Mancini, the architect for the new apartment complex.
Yet hurdles remain: The building has asbestos, and Carosella has not yet applied for a demolition permit, according to the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections. Carosella hopes to obtain the permit by Friday, said his attorney, Dawn Tancredi.
Tancredi said Carosella and the demolition contractor, JPC Group, are abiding by new city requirements - including a site safety demolition plan - put into place after the fatal June 5 collapse. Six people died when a wall of a building undergoing demolition at 22d and Market Streets fell onto the neighboring Salvation Army thrift store.
Carosella said he knew there were "a lot of eyes on them" and that his demolition company would do "everything under the sun" to ensure safety. Tancredi said Carosella had demolished three buildings in recent years.
Some neighbors shared Carosella's faith in the project. Fred Moffa, 79, who lives on the east side of South Juniper Street, said he has seen successful demolitions before and was not worried as long as the contractor was the "right guy."
But on the opposite side of Juniper, Vincent Thompson, 45, was more skeptical.
Thompson, a Democratic committeeman in the Second Ward, said he trusted Carosella but would meticulously monitor demolition and development to make sure site plans and regulations were followed.
"I have faith in the guy who's developing it - because he's a longtime Philadelphian - that he's going to do the right thing," Thompson said.
At a winter meeting with Carosella, neighbors asked about retrofitting the 127-year-old building, or maintaining the mural of Frank Sinatra on the armory's south facade. They were told neither was feasible.
The building, which housed arms for the Third Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard, is the tallest building on South Broad, said Anthony Giunta, who serves on the board of the South Broad Street Neighbors Association. That feature, coupled with the mural, make it an architectural landmark, Giunta said.
The community had hoped to have another meeting with the contractors prior to the demolition, partially to discuss appropriate safeguards, said Peter Zutter, head of the South Broad Street Neighbors Association.
That meeting will no longer occur because of the accelerated timeline, Zutter said.
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