The 2-story brick building at 1106-14 Spring Garden Street, known as the Lawsonia Building, was originally constructed around 1930 as the headquarters of a plumbing supply company and was later the home of the Lawsonia Manufacturing Company, a furniture manufacturer. The building has now been vacant for more than 15 years with multiple attempts at development over the last 7 years.
Back in 2014, developers proposed a 3-story overbuild of the Lawsonia Building. That project would have entailed the preservation of the existing building with commercial space on the ground floor, 40 residential units on the 2nd through 5th floors, and 17 parking spaces. That project needed a variance due to the parcel’s former industrial zoning classification. The ZBA granted the variance, but the project was appealed through the court system by the pastor of a nearby ministry and prevented from moving forward.
The property was later rezoned to CMX-2.5. Then, in 2017, developers were issued zoning permits to completely demolish the building and to construct a 6-story building with 52 residential units and ground floor commercial space. The building was never demolished and the project seemed to have stalled.
After years without an update, just last week, zoning permits were issued for the complete demolition of the Lawsonia Building. No updated permits for construction on the site have been issued. We imagine the owners will be moving forward with the 52-unit plan from 2017 or something similar. However, we must say that we are extremely disappointed to see this building demolished. We would have really preferred to have seen the Lawsonia Building adaptively reused with an overbuild.
It’s a shame that the appeal of the 2014 plan will ultimately lead to the demolition of this stately building. This situation is very similar to the St. Laurentius situation in Fishtown. A developer planned to convert the old church into a 23-unit apartment building, but needed a variance to do so. The variance was granted, but nearby neighbors appealed the plan and held the project up in the court system for years as the building continued to decay. Now, the developer has walked away and the church’s spires have been approved for demolition.
If Philadelphia wants to preserve its architectural history, we need to start embracing and incentivizing adaptive reuse projects rather than impeding them.
How do you feel about the demolition of the Lawsonia Building? What can be done to further incentivize adaptive reuse in Philadelphia?
Kyle is a commercial real estate agent at Rittenhouse Realty Advisors, a homeowner, and a real estate investor in Philadelphia. Kyle uses his extensive Philadelphia real estate market knowledge to help his clients buy and sell multifamily investment properties, development opportunities, and industrial sites.
Email Kyle@RittenhouseRealty.com if you are looking to buy or sell a property