Historical Commission approves designation for art deco garage

The Historical Commission Friday agreed with the recommendation made by its Committee on Historic Designation that an art deco garage on Fairmount Avenue be designated historic.

The 85-year-old structure, designed by architect Samuel Brian Baylinson, was nominated for listing in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia for its distinctive architectural character as applied to a low-rise commercial building. The nomination is fully supported by the Spring Garden Civic Association, which views the property as a neighborhood landmark.

Philadelphia has a rich collection of art deco buildings, but very few small commercial buildings are designated historic. This one is already considered a contributing building to the Fairmount Avenue National Register District. The property currently remains an auto-oriented use, currently as Overseas Motor Works.

Robert Shusterman, a lawyer and architect representing the owner of 1501-05 Fairmount, argued once again that the property’s cast stone is in disrepair and that because of its severly poor condition designation would make it more costly for the owner when it comes to fixing the exterior. (Rehab estimates given by an expert called on to testify by Shusterman Friday ranged from $300,000 to $500,000)

The commissioners were not buying that argument. Several made a point of telling the owner and his attorney that if the garage is indeed in such grave condition they should contact the Department of Licenses and Inspections immediately and begin to take steps to stabilize the structure.

Shusterman also said Mark Kreider, the property owner, believes the designation is flawed because it does not comport with due process. Kreider said he felt the process, which allows for anyone in the public realm to nominate a building for historic designation, was unfair.

In the end, the committee approved that 1501-05 Fairmount Avenue be designated historic and added to the Philadelphia Register. There was one nay vote.

Kreider will now have to comply with the Historic Preservation Ordinance by obtaining approval from the commission before undertaking any work to the garage; complying with all conditions and requirements of approvals issued by the Historical Commission; and maintaining his property in good repair to ensure that it does not deteriorate, decay, become damaged, or otherwise fall into a state of disrepair.

Watch the full hearings of the Committee on Historic Designation and the Historical Commission below.

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