Historic Properties Decay in Philadelphia’s Old City

Old City in Philadelphia presents a troubling dichotomy—while the neighborhood is a busy location for redevelopment investment, many of its historic buildings are succumbing to neglect.
April 16, 2014, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Inga Saffron describes the unique situation of Old City in Philadelphia, where fire and a building collapse claimed the famous Suit Corner and Shirt Corner, respectively, buildings.

By one estimate, “nearly 15 percent of Old City's buildings are not properly maintained. Few have sprinklers or other effective means of fire suppression.” Yet at the same time a Historical Commission official tells Saffron that the agency is now reviewing one or two renovation projects every month. "Old City is getting developed like crazy," says the unnamed official.

“The Old City neighborhood is also one of 15 historic districts under special protection of the city. Since receiving that honor in 2004, it has lost at least four other significant structures, two to fire, two to neglect. One of the fire victims, Friedman's Umbrella, sat next door to Suit Corner. Another, the Five Spot dance club, was around the corner on Bank Street.”

The question raised by the article is how a city can continue to designate neighborhoods as historic, yet remain seemingly powerless to preserve the buildings that comprise the urban fabric. 

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Published on Sunday, April 13, 2014 in Philadelphia Inquirer
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