No decision on demolition of cathedral buildings

The Philadelphia Historical Commission failed to reach a decision Friday on whether to allow the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral to demolish two historic buildings in the 3800 block of Chestnut Street and erect a 25-story apartment tower on the site.

The cathedral, around the corner on 38th Street, is seeking to tear down its own parish houses, designed over a century ago by noted church architect Charles Burns, who also designed the cathedral. The cathedral and its parish buildings were historically certified in 1981.

To back its application for demolition and construction, the cathedral and its attorney, Neil Sklaroff of Ballard Spahr, argued that demolition of the historic buildings was in the public interest because it will allow redevelopment. The funds from the private development would be used to repair and preserve the cathedral and maintain church and social services.

At the onset of the hearing, the commission received a letter supporting the demolition and development from Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for economic development and director of commerce. Greenberger, as director of commerce and chair of the city Planning Commission, directly controls two votes; the Historical Commission reached a 4-4 tie with one abstention. A special meeting of the commission will be scheduled to further consider the cathedral's application.

— Stephan Salisbury