Giovannone brothers proceed with Bunting House demo plans while opponents seek injunction
December 3, 2012By Amy Z. Quinn for NewsWorks
A court showdown over the fate of Roxborough's historic Bunting House is set for tomorrow, as those trying to save it say they will seek an injunction to prevent a planned demolition.
Over the weekend, members of a local coalition put together to keep the property's owners, Giovannone Construction, from knocking down the Second Empire-style porchfront house at Ridge and Roxborough avenues, said efforts to find a new tenant for the site had seemingly failed.
In a series of email alerts this weekend, opponents to the demolition said talks with the Giovannones had broken down after a meeting Friday. In response, opponents say they will go to court tomorrow to seek a court injunction to stop the wrecking ball.
"At the meeting, they announced that, over the last two months of calling around, they had no luck with the various chains and local hospitals," wrote Manayunk Neighborhood Council president Kevin Smith in a widely-circulated missive. "Carl Primavera, representing the investors in 5901 Ridge LLC, said that they were prepared to go ahead with their original plan to demolish all the buildings in the hope of finding a buyer for cleared lots."
Primavera said the owners had made a genuine effort to find another use for the property and said he doubted there was a legal case to stop the demolition.
"After trying to find a financially viable way to keep and lease the property with the existing building, they are convinced that they can't do it," he said Monday morning.
"My clients are aware that this is not a popular decision in some quarters, but most people in the area understand the situation and are quietly supportive," he said. "If the building had been registered as historic, my clients would never have purchased it."
The Giovannones have said little publicly about what they envision for their parcels, which include 5901, 5905, 5907 and 5909 Ridge Ave., as well as 520 Roxborough Ave., though Smith said they were seeking national chains, including fast-food restaurants, for the site. All of the properties are now vacant, though preservation efforts have focused only on the Bunting House, which sits on the busy corner.
Complicating matters for opponents of the demolition is the fact that while Roxborough is rich in examples of striking period architecture and properties with historic ties, it has no formal historic district protecting notable properties.
Attorney Hal Schirmer had filed for the injunction in September, but held off seeking a court hearing on the matter while the Giovannones sought a tenant for the site. At the same time, the Giovannones held off demolition despite demolition permits issued on Sept. 26.
Talks involved local civic organizations and the Roxborough Development Corporation, and culminated in the meeting Friday.
The court hearing is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall Room 696.