Over the summer, we directed your attention to the northwest corner of 17th & Bainbridge, where we found a demolition notice affixed to the New Light Beulah Baptist Church. We noted that the building was constructed around 1870 as the First Church of the Covenanters Presbyterian Church, but made the observation that the stucco exterior was a relatively recent change. We also pointed out that the building was not listed on the Historic Register, which meant that preservationists had little to no recourse to stop the building from being torn down.
It was a shame to see this building go, as it added considerable architectural diversity to the area. And even though we rail on stucco pretty regularly, we always kind of fancied this building because of it. Thankfully, the demolition moved rather quickly, with the building already gone and foundation work already underway for the project that’s replacing it.
When we previously visited this property, we didn’t know what was coming next. We speculated about the possibilities, including $1M homes, a condo building, or a row of duplexes, triplexes, or quadplexes. With multi-family zoning for this property, all of those approaches would have been permitted without going through zoning. It turns out, the developers are building four triplexes and one quadplex at the corner, for a total of sixteen units. You can bet they’ll be offered as condos, with the project website already up and running. The developer is calling the project Portofino, not to be confused with the Italian fishing village or the restaurant on Walnut Street. Check out the renderings:
These look like they’ll be some pretty good looking condo buildings, with a nice mix of materials and a tasteful street presence. If this site was previously a surface parking lot, the buildings wouldn’t engender too many complaints. Because they’re replacing a 150-year-old church though, it’s hard to fully embrace such a clear step down in terms of architectural interest. As we’ve said many times, the Historical Commission is terribly understaffed and underfunded, even with a recent bump in staff and budget. Without more resources in that office, we’ll continue to see this phenomenon repeat itself in desirable neighborhoods all over the city.