Neighbors in the vicinity of 49th and Florence streets have been abuzz about the early-morning collapse of a long-vacant building's bay window, which sent debris crashing to the sidewalk. Sources say the building at 722 S. 49th St. had a long history of violations with the Department of Licenses & Inspections, but, despite numerous complaints, was left to rot all winter long.
Jennine Miller, who lives nearby, said she personally filed a complaint with 311 as recently as last September, specifically citing the dangerous condition of the bay window. After no action was taken, she contacted Ryan Spak, a local developer who works with the University City District (UCD) on an initiative that seeks to acquire and redevelop long-blighted properties. Spak told Miller that the city wanted to tear down the structure, but that the UCD had asked them to stay a demolition order while he worked to resolve a long-running ownership dispute. She was told both agencies were "monitoring the situation."
"The original owner died in the 70s and his 16 children and grandchildren now own it," Miller told neighbors in an email late last year. "UCD has asked the city to halt demolition while [UCD] tracks down the final heir...hopefully nothing terrible happens while everyone gets their act together."
L&I had not yet responded to an email for comment, but online records indicate that the structure was cited at least four separate times since 2009, accruing 14 different code violations. The building was cleaned and sealed in 2010 by L&I, but continued to deteriorate, drawing more complaints. In May 2013, the building was flagged as imminently dangerous, a designation that normally results in demolition. But nothing happened.
It's unclear if UCD asked the city to stay a demolition order. Spak did not respond to a phone call for comment. Most UCD administrators were out of the office today due to the weather, according to a receptionist.
A demolition crew was at the scene shortly after reports of the collapse reached the City Paper. Fencing and caution tape had already been posted around a pile of debris on the sidewalk beneath a gaping hole, the remains of the bay window. By sheer luck, no one was injured when it fell.
Stay tuned as more details unfold.
UPDATE: A second building has collapsed today, crosstown, says Philly Mag's Liz Spikol. Some followup and additional details here.
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