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Demolition of Fishtown's historic St. Laurentius Church could begin next week

Demolition of St. Laurentius Church could begin next week
Demolition of St. Laurentius Church could begin next week 02:06

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A historic church in Fishtown could come down this week after being a part of the community for more than a century. Demolition of the old St. Laurentius Church could start as early as Monday.

The city is waiting on final approval from the Department of Licenses and Inspections.  

The building on East Berks Street has been slowly falling apart since the Archdiocese closed it in 2014 due to safety concerns.

 Eyewitness News spoke with neighbors about their concerns and fears as the long project moves forward.

"It's Philadelphia. It's a city of old churches and they're gonna build another five or six-story apartment building. You can build those anywhere. You can't build this again." Resident Benjamin Brotman said.

The 19th-century church's spires stand tall above berks street surrounded by row homes and a catholic school right next door.

It's leaving neighbors like Jordan Price to wonder what will happen once classes start.

"I can't imagine it's going to be a speedy process. And school is starting in the not-so-distant future. They also use this street for recess." resident Jordan Price said. 

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia says, in part, "Since the emergency closure of the building in March of 2014, the parish has been committed to providing for the safety of the students at St. Laurentius Catholic school and the community-at-large."

The church will be demolished nearly all by hand. But street closures and this fence are already impacting neighbors.

"I feel a little concerned. Parking is already such a concern here in Fishtown." Price said.

Longtime residents say they'll miss the historic building as it leaves an opening for something new for Fishtown's future.

"It means a lot, it means a lot. If they tear it down it's going to be nothing but condos." resident Walter Pomroy said.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke released a statement, saying:

"We care deeply about the people of Fishtown and their community. At my direction, an extensive community meeting took place yesterday, to hear all community stakeholders and city officials. There will be consistent meetings moving forward, to make sure that residents' concerns about the impending demolition of the church are heard and addressed in a prompt fashion. Residents care about their community and its history, about the impact of the demolition on the nearby St. Laurentius school, as well as important issues such as dust control, rodents, street closures and related matters. We intend to keep all lines of communication open and ongoing for the people of Fishtown with all relevant city departments. Public safety and the school's continued operation are of paramount importance at this time."

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