Breathing new life into a beloved building from my childhood

You know those old Steely Dan song lyrics “and I’m never going back to my old school?” They’ve been running through my head since I passed by St. Lucy’s on Green Lane in Manayunk the other day.

The following is an essay submitted by the author.

You know those old Steely Dan song lyrics “and I’m never going back to my old school?” They’ve been running through my head since I passed by St. Lucy’s on Green Lane in Manayunk the other day.

The orange zoning notice on the front door caught my eye, announcing the upcoming hearing for builder Andy Mulson’s plans to redevelop much of the school’s small Manayunk campus. The stonefront school building will remain and be converted to 14 apartments, but the rectory and garage behind it, facing the church on narrow Smick Street, will be demolished to make room for three townhouses on new lots.

Before the rectory was built in 1984, that area was a little fenced in schoolyard, where I played tag and jumped rope and lined up when Sr. Doloretta rang her handbell. Later, the “schoolyard” moved across Green Lane, to the parking lot.

Eventually, that parking lot will be replaced by a total of nine more townhouses facing Green Lane and Carson Street, though Mulson said they won’t be started until after work on the other side of Green Lane is done. The parking lot parcel isn’t a perfect square, which Mulson said may require some tweaking that could eventually necessitate a zoning variance.

“We can build [the houses] by right, but we might seek the variance so as not to build a crooked building,” he said.

Though he didn’t go to school at St. Lucy’s, Mulson is a neighborhood guy, and said he was drawn to the St. Lucy’s property as a way to keep a significant Manayunk property alive. 

St. Lucy’s is one of dozens of empty former school buildings citywide, and among a cluster of Manayunk schools closed during recent cuts by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the face of shrinking enrollments. The neighborhood’s character, too, has changed, with rowhouses that once fed children into the local schools now renting to college students and young professionals.

The St. Lucy’s building has been empty since 2005, when several Manayunk parish schools were collapsed into a new school, Holy Child. The parish and church closed last year.

Mulson’s plan for 144 Green Lane will go before the zoning board at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 7, with the support of the Manayunk Neighborhood Council. 

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, indepth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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