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St. Laurentius Apartment Plan Wins In Court, But Clock Is Ticking

St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown

The plan to turn the oldest Polish Catholic church in Philadelphia into apartments won a key court victory, but its future is far from certain.

St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown was closed in 2014 and has been marked as unsafe for almost that long, but former parishioners and neighbors have fought to keep the structure from being demolished. Developer Leo Voloshin plans to preserve the structure and turn the inside into apartments, but the group, called the Faithful Laurentians, has fought him too.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment granted Voloshin the needed variance to convert the church into 23 apartments, but the Faithful Laurentians filed suit, claiming the procedure by which Voloshin's lawyers entered their recommendations was illegal. The Philadelphia Common Pleas Court threw out the suit with prejudice, PlanPhilly reports.

The way in which the case was dismissed means that the plaintiffs cannot challenge the ZBA again for different reasons pertaining to the case. Still, the opposition says it plans to appeal, which could draw out the church's development timeline further. For a building that was targeted for demolition in 2015, that might be time the project does not have.

“We’re waiting to see if they appeal before we make any decisions,” Voloshin told PlanPhilly. “It’s risky for us to proceed if we don’t have this zoning issue resolved. We need to start stabilizing it.” 

Voloshin said that depending on the upcoming winter's severity, further damage to the church may make development too expensive to proceed.