Developer pursues apartment conversion at St. Laurentius in Fishtown

Fishtowners rejoiced last summer when St. Laurentius, a 130-year old church that was deconsecrated in 2014, was added to the local register of historic places, giving it at least some measure of protection against demolition. Now a more enduring protection may be in the offing.

Leo Voloshin, the owner of the Kensington-based textile design company Printfresh Studio, told PlanPhilly that he has entered an agreement of sale to purchase the church from the Holy Name of Jesus Parish, with plans to convert the property into apartments. Voloshin is partnering with Linden Lane Capital Partners on the project.

Voloshin, who also developed Paper Box Studios on North Hancock Street, said on Thursday that the overarching contingency on the agreement is whether he can make the conversion financially viable. He plans to meet with community groups and pursue zoning approvals over the next few months. Parts of the building will need expensive repairs, he said—though perhaps not as expensive as the Archdiocese has claimed in the past. Voloshin said he would also explore the possibility of including a commercial use in the project, but doesn’t think it’s likely. He doesn’t know how many apartments might be included.

“Our intention is to keep it entirely intact, externally,” Voloshin said.

The Archdiocese confirmed last week that it had entered an “agreement of sale with contingencies.”

“There are a variety of well-known factors involved with this particular property that still need to be resolved,” said Ken Gavin, director of communications for the Archdiocese, in an email to PlanPhilly. “As stated previously, any buyer for this building would need to assume any and all liability for the structure given its unsafe condition. As you know, neither the owner of the former church building, Holy Name of Jesus Parish, nor the Archdiocese have the financial resources to make the necessary repairs.”

Voloshin said the sale won’t close unless he’s able to get zoning approvals in place.

There is currently a nomination for the interior portion of the church pending before the Historical Commission. It is tentatively scheduled to be heard before the designation committee in June.

John Wisniewski of the Friends of St. Laurentius said he hoped that Voloshin would be able to make the conversion work, and that he’d encourage him to preserve some elements of the interior if the project goes forward.

Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Voloshin had entered an agreement of sale with the Archdiocese. The current owner of the church is actually Holy Name of Jesus Parish. PlanPhilly regrets the error. 

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