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East Montgomery Ave M.E. Church Sold to Buyer, Church Structure to Remain Intact

Through the efforts of a neighborhood organization, the East Montgomery Ave. Methodist Episcopal Church has been saved from a proposed demolition.

On Tuesday, March 22nd, the Neighborhood Preservation Alliance (NPA) issued a press release stating that the property at 1775 Frankford Ave. has been sold to a buyer who has agreed to keep the church intact. According to Ori Feibush, the developer who brokered the sale, the buyer or buyers would prefer their identity remain private. The news comes following a two month long effort to prevent the destruction of the church after demolition permits were issued for the building in late January of this year.

East Montgomery Ave. M.E. Church

East Montgomery Ave. M.E. Church/Google Maps

The NPA is a group of 16 Fishtown residents with a mission to “preserve the architectural heritage of Philadelphia neighborhoods whenever possible” and to “support smart, progressive development that is both contextual to the existing neighborhood’s architectural language and respectful to the neighbors who live there.”

The founders of the NPA, who aside from local historical preservationist Andrew Fearon wish to remain anonymous, formed the organization after noticing demolition permits had been posted for the church and then quickly taken down. A brief investigation of the Licenses and Inspections permits yielded that the church was indeed slated for demolition. The NPA then wrote a Change.org petition to 5th District Council Representative Darrell L. Clarke, which quickly received over 600 signatures. Then the NPA entered what would turn out to be two months worth of talks with Ori Feibush.

On February 4th, Feibush agreed to give the group 45 days to find a buyer. On February 16th, he extended that deadline and dropped the list price of the property from $795,000 to $749,000. About five weeks later, the demolition issue was finally resolved.

The NPA believes that this effort was “a model of how developers and neighbors can work together to achieve a common goal.” The organization stresses that diplomacy and equilibrium are essential in negotiations of this nature, citing that, “[b]oth the actions of our group and the developer’s broker, Ori Feibush, remained committed, civil, respectful and diplomatic throughout the entirety of [this] challenging process.” Andrew Fearon called the resolution “a victory for preservation.”  

The church itself was established in 1857 as the Salem Methodist Episcopal Church and in 1862 the current structure was completed. In 1874, the name was changed to the East Montgomery Ave. M.E. Church. The building was designed in the mid-19th century Ecclesiastical Architectural style. It sits at 1558. E. Montgomery Ave. although the entire property, including a lot directly west of the building is now listed as 1775 Frankford Ave. The building contains five fully functional apartments, several of which are currently occupied. The entire structure is roughly 6,000 square feet.

The NPA will continue their mission to broker communication between developers and the communities they operate in as well as encouraging “our city’s leaders to continue to reexamine and improve our municipal development process.”

We must shift our thinking from a simple ‘us vs them’ along the frontline of Philadelphia’s preservation battles and continue to foster dialogues that lead towards resolution,” Fearon said.

The group asks the public to please reach out to them at neighborhoodpreservationallies@gmail.com or follow their Facebook page.

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