Graduate Hospital teardown tells us about affordability and tax policy in Philadelphia

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    Graduate Hospital teardown tells us about affordability and tax policy in Philadelphia

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    If you’ve visited this column space before, you know that one recurring theme is the loss of Philadelphia’s fine old buildings to indiscriminate development. In December, I highlighted a developer’s plan to replace an elegant, 140-year-old townhouse on Christian Street with a garish, five-unit condo building. Stamm Development Group isn’t merely demolishing a perfectly good house and breaking up a handsome row of Victorians in the process; it’s also messing with history: In the early 20th century, the 1500 block was home to some of Philadelphia’s most successful Black professionals, including architect Julian Abele, and was known as “Doctors’ Row.” That heritage is now being erased.

    Only two months have passed since then, but I’m back with news of another teardown on the block, this one at 1507 Christian, just three doors east of that Victorian. In this case, however, the house is a mere 13 years old — so recent, its 10-year property tax abatement expired only in 2018. The house was built during what I think of as Philadelphia’s Mud Epoch, when globs of brown stucco protruded from facades and blank garage doors marked the ground floors. The developer, who paid $755,000 for the house, plans to erect a five-unit condo building in its place. Once again, the property will qualify for the city’s decade-long tax holiday.

    In contrast to what’s happening to its Victorian neighbor, the demolition of this stucco monster would seem to be good news for the…

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