Does Ori Feibush need to start wearing a cape?
Feibush, the energetic, young developer who owns OCF Realty, is being called a hero of late because of his stick-it-to-the-man clean-up and green-up of a city-owned vacant lot behind his newly opened OCF Coffee House in Point Breeze.
If you haven’t been following the pithy Ori Feibush vs Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) feud, you’ve been missing quite the boxing match.
A quick recap: As Feibush opened his new OCF Coffee House in August – itself a long fought battle – at 20th and Federal, he paid to clean and landscape the PRA-owned vacant lot behind it on the corner of 20th and Annin. PRA flipped its toupee, calling Ori a trespasser and flatly denying Feibush’s assertion that he repeatedly attempted to express interest in buying/cleaning the lot. Meanwhile media outlets – locally, nationally, and internationally – glommed onto the the strangeness of the city’s hostile response to OCF’s cleanup, while heralding Ori’s DIY ethic. Naked Philly, which is owned by OCF Realty, has been dutifully covering the conflict.
By the end of last week both sides escalated their respective PR campaigns. Feibush went on the offensive, launching a website called Please Fix Philly, featuring an open letter about his case and supporting documents (letters, emails, text messages) and photos. Not to be outdone, PRA held a press conference at the lot in question Friday afternoon (during which Mayoral spokesman evidently Mark McDonald got into a spat with a neighborhood resident – listen to the end of the video below.)
This whole story reminded me of something Ori Feibush told PlanPhilly contributor Patrick Kerkstra last year about his experience as a developer in Point Breeze, “If the City of Philadelphia would just get out of its own way, we could make this whole neighborhood better.”
So what do you think?
Does this whole saga just illuminate the inefficiencies and headaches that surround so many vacant properties? Does it make Ori Feibush into a folk hero or a developer interested in protecting his new investment? Is it a statement on OCF’s part that they’re determined – at any cost – to be good neighbors in Point Breeze or is it tantamount to a land grab? Should we applaud Feibush’s refusal to sit on his hands and accept the blight nextdoor or should he play by the rules even when they’re frustrating? Was Feibush a sucker to spend money on improving a lot he doesn’t own? Should PRA be spending so much time fighting Feibush instead of finding a way to work with him? Or do you think this whole conflict has been blown wildly out of proportion?
Tell us where you come down on this one by taking our Word on the Street poll:
This is certainly not the first time OCF and PRA have fought over land in Point Breeze (see Feibush’s example in his open letter on PleaseFixPhilly), and after this it probably won’t be the last. I’ll be curious how quickly PRA moves to sell this lot now that so many eyes are watching, and I wonder if OCF will end up with it anyway.