The Church of St. Lawrence in Philadelphia could be replaced by an eight-story apartment building

Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections on Wednesday granted planning permission to build an eight-story apartment building on the site of St. Laurentius Church, Fishtown’s historic landmark, which is being demolished.

According to plans submitted to the city, the owner, developer Humberto Fernandini of 1600 Berks LLC, intends to replace the brownstone church, built in 1882, with a 45,000-square-foot, 49-unit building on the corner of Berks Street and Memphis Street. The building will have 17 bicycle parking spaces and automated parking on the ground floor for 15 vehicles.

»READ MORE: L&I grants demolition permit for St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown

L&I issued a demolition permit for the church in September and agreed with the owner’s engineers that the entire building – and not just the towering twin towers that define the Fishtown skyline – are structurally unstable and prone to collapse. This decision followed years of efforts by some parishioners and the city to preserve the church and years of requests from the owner to demolish it.

The former Roman Catholic Church was built with donations from Polish immigrants from the 19th century. It is being demolished almost entirely by hand because of its proximity to row houses and a school.

»READ MORE: St. Laurentius sold to new developer

Plans by a former property developer to preserve the church, which has a place on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, and convert it into apartments, failed. When the current owner bought the property in January 2020, he said he would try to preserve the building and convert the interior into apartments or offices.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia closed the church in 2014 after engineers said the building was unsafe.

When the Philadelphia Historical Commission approved the demolition of the church’s decaying 50-foot spiers last year, the church’s facade had to be preserved or rebuilt with each new development. That requirement remains in place, a commission spokesman said in September after the city granted approval for full demolition.

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