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Phila. Historical Commission Clarifies Stance on Demolition of Historic Church

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia's Historical Commission today reaffirmed its decision to allow the demolition of the 160-year-old Church of the Assumption, on Spring Garden Street.

The L&I Review Board earlier this week asked the Historical Commission to clarify whether the demolition permit for the Church of the Assumption is valid for the property's new owners, MJ Central Investment.   The permit had first been requested by the original owners, a nonprofit agency called Siloam (see all previous stories).

After meeting behind closed doors in executive session, Historical Commission chairman Sam Sherman announced that the permit remains valid.

"This commission unanimously found that the permit does apply to the current owner, and is not subject to the ownership of the building but the building itself," he said.

So now, it's back to the L&I Review Board for the Callowhill Neighborhood Association, which is fighting to preserve the 160-year-old church that has links to Philadelphia-based Catholic saints Katherine Drexel and John Neumann.

"I think they're very short-sighted," says Callowhill Neighborhood Association attorney Sam Stretton of the Historical Commission.  "This is the first time, at least in many years, where the Historical Commission has ever granted a permit to demolish and allow it to go forward when the matter is on appeal."

The Church of the Assumption was consecrated by John Neumann, and was the site of Katherine Drexel's baptism.

The current owner says simply stabilizing the structure of the vacant church would cost millions of dollars.

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