An old environmental hazard and a current environment of caution have delayed the razing and redevelopment of one of Roxborough’s most infamous properties.
Another 800 feet of asbestos material has been found at the former Ivy Ridge nursing-home site, stopping the demolition for the second time in two months.
But it is the pace of the city permitting process — particularly since the June 5 collapse of the buildings at 22nd and Market streets, where six people were killed — that has really slowed the work at 5627 Ridge Ave., according to the developer.
“It’s insane. I’m not very happy,” said Stephen Goldner, noting that he understands the need for the multi-layered approval process. “One of the big problems is, I’m not unique. There are dozens of builders and developers in the same situation. Since the calamity on Market Street, no one wants to make a mistake.”
The back story
Goldner obtained the zoning permit for his “Kingsley Court” development last fall, and its groundbreaking in the winter had the support of the Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association, Roxborough Development Corp. and Fourth District City Councilman Curtis Jones, who has called the planned cul-de-sac of 32 twin homes on the 3.5-acre site a “significant investment” in Roxborough’s future.
All parties are looking forward to a new landscape at the scene of the former Ivy Ridge Personal Care Home, which closed in 2008 following a settlement announced by the U.S. Department of Justice with owner Rosalind S. Lavin and other partners.
A government investigation had found that residents of the facility were living in structurally unsafe housing and conditions that included insufficient food, inadequate oversight of medications and medical care, and unclean clothing and linens.
The residents’ Social Security and disability benefits, meanwhile, were being diverted from their care to the owners’ personal use, the Justice Department said. The owners paid $700,000 and were ordered to never again operate a care facility as part of the settlement.
Since then, a man froze to death while living in an illegal boarding home at the site in 2009, and the deteriorating buildings have been damaged by fires that neighbors have blamed on squatters.
Property revival delayed
Plans for the opening of Kingsley Court were set for last spring. Work stopped in June following the discovery of asbestos in the main building.
The developer and real-estate company handling the property had hoped the abatement process would be completed by early August. Now they are looking at the end of the year, or longer, for the new construction to be completed.
Realtor Marie Gordon, of Prudential Fox & Roach, said there are eight homes already under contract at Kingsley Court. Marketing for the homes, which start at $339,900, stopped when delays arose in obtaining permits from the Philadelphia Water Department.
Goldner, a retired architect responsible for a variety of projects in Center City including the Dorchester on Rittenhouse Square, said the water permit is in hand, and the project is now undergoing the state’s environmental process, which will be followed by the Streets Department review.
Despite the delays, he said he’s not experiencing any developer’s remorse.
“This is going to be a good project. It’s a nice location. And the community has been very supportive,” Goldner said. “We’re caught up in the city bureaucracy, but the city is not doing anything wrong. We’re just caught up in everyone trying to do everything right.”
The developer remains “very frustrated that the building still hasn’t started. The bank is frustrated. The builder is frustrated,” Goldner said. “But this is the city doing its job very carefully.”
Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association president Andrew Bantly said the group still supports the Kingsley Court project: “This was a blighted property. If Mr. Goldner is ensuring it will be done properly and safely, the delay is understandable.”
The work is progressing, Bantly said, “and the neighborhood does see that. But, safety has always been the Civic Association’s concern at all levels.”
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