30 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue
New development is vital to the community but should not come at the expense of invaluable architecture and landscape
UPDATE: May 2017
After 15 months of negotiation and discussion, the Chestnut Hill Conservancy (CHC) has finalized a preservation easement on the property at 30 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue with Main Street Development Company. Now, rather than five new townhomes on a cleared one-third-acre site, this historic home will be renovated and a new twin will be constructed on its subdivided back yard.
You may recall the groundswell of community opposition that followed the proposed demolition of this home and the removal of its trees in January 2016. This 1887 Queen Anne-style residence is one of only a few remaining buildings designed by the celebrated Philadelphia architect Theophilus Parsons Chandler, and is considered a significant historic resource in the Chestnut Hill Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. As National Register designation offers recognition but no protection from demolition, CHC worked with neighbors and with Glenn Falso, Jr., president of Mainstreet Development, to negotiate an alternative to his by-right teardown redevelopment.
As CHC worked with Falso to craft the preservation easement on 30 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue, a group of hard-working neighbors coalesced to support that effort and to focus attention on the proposed new construction. That construction has now begun, and the restoration to the historic residence will take place over the next six months. Falso stated, “I am excited to be moving forward on this project, and look forward to welcoming new neighbors in our beautiful new and rehabbed homes here.”
The development at 30 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue was one catalyst for the formation of a community taskforce that is promoting a balanced approach to sustainable new development, historic architecture preservation, and open space conservation throughout Chestnut Hill. This effort culminated in the Residential Conservation, Preservation, and Development Study currently underway by the CHC and Chestnut Hill Community Association, and the Visionaries Roundtable discussion – all meant to facilitate community-based planning and action.
“30 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue was a wake-up call for a lot of people to recognize that demolition of intact historic resources could happen in a second,” says Lori Salganicoff, CHC’s executive director. “The demolition permit for that building was pulled the same day the developer took possession of the property. For a number of reasons, we were able to turn this property around, but we need to have a better understanding of situations like this in order to plan for the future of Chestnut Hill. This is not likely to be the last challenge of this kind, but we hope this outcome encourages others to consider alternatives to teardown redevelopment in this remarkable neighborhood.”
UPDATE: January 2016
Your support is powerful!
The groundswell of opposition to this threatened demolition from community members and the Chestnut Hill Conservancy resulted in its nomination to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, which could give it protection against demolition. This nomination, drafted by Dr. Emily Cooperman, explains its architectural and historical significance; look at these current and historical photos, too. The nomination remains under consideration by the Commission as a mutually agreeable resolution is pursued by the parties involved. As of early 2017, we continue to work with the developer and neighbors to move forward a preservation-and-development project that is historically and contextually sensitive.
Another, hugely positive outcome of this case was the formation of a community taskforce to promote a balanced approach to sustainable new development, historic architecture preservation, and open space conservation throughout Chestnut Hill.
“30 W. Chestnut Hill Avenue was a wake-up call for a lot of people to recognize that [demolition of intact historic resources] could happen in a second,” Executive Director Lori Salganicoff said. “The demolition permit for that building was pulled the same day the developer took possession of the property. For a number of reasons we were able to turn that around, but we need to have a better understanding of situations like this.”
“Better understanding” is beginning to happen with the Chestnut Hill Residential Conservation and Development Study, taking place from January through May of 2017.