Philadelphia Can Not Afford to Demolish Nearly 600 Buildings

As of March 1, the city Department of Licenses and Inspections had labeled 585 commercial and residential buildings “imminently dangerous,” including Old City’s Shirt Corner, which collapsed Thursday while undergoing demolition, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

And they cannot say how many of them are occupied.

The Shirt Corner was being taken down by its owners. That’s unusual with dangerous buildings in Philadelphia. Only a small number of owners go through the expense of taking down a building that has been long ignored. The city typically bears the cost of neglect.

But officials say with only $6 million budgeted, they can’t raze all that should be taken down.

“It’s a matter of resources,” L&I spokeswoman Rebecca Swanson said.

The typical demolition costs $15,000, and the city has a long list of properties at risk of collapse.

The department expects to receive an additional $3 million this fiscal year to make up for some larger unexpected demolition costs, such as at St. Bonaventure Church in North Philadelphia, where the expense is nearly $1 million. L&I officials want an additional $9 million in demolition funding for fiscal year 2015.

The number of buildings listed as dangerous is similar to the number demolished last year – 536 by L&I and 53 by private owners.

Once a building makes the list, code enforcement officials can order the owner to fix it or take it down.

If the owner ignores the notice, the city can pursue the matter in court or take down the structure on an emergency bases and place a lien against the property.

But the city often finds there is no viable owner to hold responsible, Swanson said.

“Most don’t have owners,” she said. Homeowners listed on two of the Euclid Avenue properties have died.

The city is in litigation with 47 property owners to fix or demolish buildings deemed imminently dangerous or unsafe, a less severe designation, said Scott Mulderig, director of L&I’s emergency services and abatement division.

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