Blighted East Falls house, once the cause of protest, now being torn down

A deteriorating house in East Falls that sparked a protest last year — and many years of neighbors’ discontent — is finally, if slowly, being razed by its owner.

The house at 3342 Conrad Street has been vacant for decades, according to area residents.

“The neighborhood wanted to see the house restored, repaired, or torn down,” said Bill Epstein, vice president of the East Falls Community Council. “So this is what we wanted to see. It was a blight, and it was getting to the point that it was dangerous. We’re very pleased to see it come down.”

As the walls crumbled at the derelict property, the site became a place for teenagers behaving badly to hang out, Epstein said. Building violations piled up for litter, a broken downspout, broken windows, a partially collapsed roof, and overgrown trees, vines and weeds.

Shortly after the demolition permit was posted on a recently erected chain-link fence and the work began at the site, Epstein met a neighbor who said she had acquired three cats to keep the fleeing mice away.

The permit issued March 6 and updated March 16 calls for the complete demolition of the three-story structure.

The process will be slow because of the proximity to other homes and buildings on the block. “The demolition team there said it has to be taken down carefully, not with a wrecking ball,” Epstein said. “Right now it’s being done by guys with sledgehammers.”

Road trip

Epstein was among a group of East Falls residents who traveled last November to Plymouth Meeting to stage a protest at the home of Harry Scott, the owner of the blighted house in East Falls. They distributed flyers along the street and waited for Scott to come home.

Whitemarsh Township police mediated the meeting between Scott and the East Falls residents. Scott told them he didn’t know how badly the property had deteriorated and that he would begin the process of taking the house down and clearing the lot.

Scott did not return calls for comment for this story.

Epstein said the owner has mentioned plans to rebuild houses on the site, in keeping with the current zoning for the property.

More work on the block

It’s not the only building undergoing work on the East Falls block. The house at 3350 Conrad currently has battling documents posted on the property.

“My understanding is an architectural firm started work on the house, and the city discovered, through no fault of the new owner, that some fines and liens had not been paid and were not discovered when the property was sold,” Epstein said.

A “cease work” order was subsequently posted on the door of the house.

The problems with the property were “related to the previous owner, and apparently they have been settled,” Epstein said.

A new set of paperwork has been hung on the exterior wall, under protective plexiglass, stating that the necessary work permits have been issued, the rehabilitation is proceeding, and work there will be completed by early July.

PlanPhilly is now a project of WHYY/NewsWorks. It began in 2006 as an initiative of Penn Praxis inside the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. Though now part of WHYY, Plan Philly still works closely with Penn Praxis in covering planning, zoning and development news. Contact Alan Jaffe at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

 

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