Bella Vista Church Emerges as Latest Example of Preservation vs. Development Tensions in Philly

    by Caitlin McCabe, STAFF WRITER @ philly.com        Camera icon JESSICA GRIFFIN 

When the property located at 1020-24 Christian St. was listed for sale this summer, its description came with an urgent warning.

“Excellent development opportunity,” the post began. “The demand for single-family and multifamily residential in this area is particularly high.”

“This opportunity,” it continued, “will not last long.”

By the end of the day, the sprawling 6,500-square-foot property was under agreement.

In a real estate market as strong as Philadelphia’s, to have a property sell quickly is far from atypical. But this is no conventional property — nor is its buyer.

When developer Ori Feibush saw the listing for 1020-24 Christian St., better known as the Christian Street Baptist Church, he jumped at a chance to build in a “strong neighborhood,” he said. After all, Bella Vista — the neighborhood well-known for its Italian Market and bounded by South Street, Washington Avenue, Sixth and 11th Streets — has seen an influx of cash, new populations, and development in recent decades as the neighborhood has become gentrified. If Feibush were to demolish the church and build five townhouses in its place — the crux of his original plan — it’s unlikely that he would have much difficulty finding interest.

So the day that Christian Street Baptist was listed for sale, Feibush’s development company, OCF Realty, made a bid: “Just a little shy” of $1.5 million, the church’s asking price. Immediately, the church accepted, nixing two other offers. Read more…

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