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Developer Explains Scheduled Demo at 480-2 Lyceum Ave.

Roxborough Development Corporation doesn't protest demolition.

Two longstanding Lyceum Avenue homes are on the path to demolition, following a trend impacting some Central Roxborough properties.

Michael Cooley, a representative from property owner Villanova-based Provco Group, said no timetable exists but 480 and 482 Lyceum Ave. will be demolished, after the company deemed them unable to rehab.

Although some residents oppose the move, the Roxborough Development Corporation doesn't feel these homes are worth the fight that it put up for other buildings.

"What is important, number one, is to save all the significant buildings in Roxborough. The second thing is that we support and encourage development. That's how our neighborhood can grow," RDC Executive Director Bernard Guet said.

"What we have to balance is that when there is a significant bulding—like the Bunting Home—we put our energy in preserving it... These two houses don't represent any specific period of time of architecture and aren't as significant."

'Killing the Neighborhood?'

The timing of the demolition comes after 368 Lyceum Ave. was demolished in early November to make way for three homes. The battle to preserve the historical Bunting House at 5901 Ridge Ave. continues, as well. 

Historian John C. Manton, author of several works on Roxborough architecture and history, says the homes were built around 1900 and precede the Roxborough-Manayunk Bank, which was built in 1956.

"It certainly looks as if developers are trashing Lyceum Avenue with demolitions and overdevelopment while the community stands back watching in hapless horror," he said. "I mean really, three house demolitions in less than a month on the same street. What is going on here? These two houses were well-maintained and featured in many, many old photographs taken during the annual Fourth-of-July Sunday School parade year after year."

At the Nov. 1 Central Roxborough Civic Association meeting, neighbors bemoaned the 480-2 Lyceum Ave. plan, as it came on the heels of 368 Lyceum Ave. Neither project required resident input.

"The nature of the zoning laws allows them to do what they want. It's not right. They're killing the neighborhood," Helen Mangelsdorf said.

The Plans

Cooley, a Roxborough native, has won development awards from the RDC for his renovation projects along Ridge Avenue, which include the Wawa, Wells Fargo, TD Bank and Roxborough Commons.

The Provco Group acquired 480-2 and 474-6 Lyceum Ave. along with the former Roxborough-Manayunk Bank at 6056 Ridge Ave. and the now-shopping center where Starbucks, Citizens Bank and other retails shops sit in a portfolio in 2007.

The plan for the adjacent twin homes was complete renovation. The company remodeled 474 and 476 Lyceum Ave. by installing new kitchens, plumbing and bathrooms. Cooley wanted to do the same with 480-2 Lyceum Ave., but too much damage existed.

"480 has had some pretty significant water damage and mold from a busted pipe years ago. The cost to renovate, well it's cheaper to build a new home," he said. "482 was converted to office space for the Roxborough-Manayunk Bank. The whole house is in office condition. There's no real kitchen or bathroom."

A rumor existed that the homes would be demolished to make way for parking at the bank building, but Cooley said the plan is just to demolish them. 

The former bank has been a challenge to find a tenant, he said, because parking at Ridge and Lyceum is sparse. Any spaces created by the proposed demolition don't really alter the situation.

"We've been marketing that property since 2007-8. We've had some different levels of interest throughout the years. The challenge is to find a catalyst lead tenant," he said.

Making Roxborough Better

Guet said the Provco Group has worked well with Roxborough many times over the years—including installing rear parking at Roxborough Commons to make Ridge Avenue look better.

"Is the new development better than what was there before? TD Bank is 100 percent better. But if it's only 10 percent better or 20 percent better, then it's worth it, too," he said.

Cooley said the timing was coincidental. Tearing down 480-2 Lyceum Ave. has been on Provco's roadmap for a while. He emphasized that his group maintains its commitment to Roxborough.

"We've made significant investments in Ridge Avenue throughout the years. Our priority is to protect the integrity of the property and neighborhood," he said.

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