The Embarrassing Cluelessness of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority

Mr. Fox

Last week, we covered a story about 1138-42 S. 20th St., a Point Breeze lot owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority since 1976, which has garnered national and even international coverage in the days since. To briefly summarize: Last month, realtor and developer Ori Feibush spent between $20-$30K to clean up and green this long-vacant, trash-filled, blighted lot next door to a coffee shop he was preparing to open, even though the land belonged to a City agency. He did this in spite of the PRA's verbal and written demands that he not trespass on the lot, and in the face of threats of legal action.

In the past
Last week

Why, you may ask, did Feibush go ahead with this costly effort without first purchasing the lot from the PRA, or at the very least entering into a long-term lease or gardening agreement? According to representatives from the PRA, Feibush didn't approach their office regarding this lot until August of 2012. Feibush counters that he's made numerous efforts in writing, over the phone, and in person over the years, to no avail.

In case you're trying to determine whose story rings true, these emails back from May and June of 2011, representing neither Feibush's first nor his last expressions of interest, should shed some light on the subject:

Email from the PRA to Feibush's attorney, acknowledging an expression of interest in May of 2011
Email from Feibush's attorney to the recommended party at the PRA, also in May of 2011
Email from Feibush's attorney to Feibush, passing along instructions for the process of acquiring the lots

This definitively debunks the claim made by Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald in today's Daily News that "a letter that Feibush sent Tuesday to the authority was his first official declaration of interest in buying the property." But hey, if a declaration of interest lands on the desk of someone who works in an office where no one seems to have a clue, is it really sent?

Full disclosure: Ori Feibush owns OCF Realty, the parent company of Naked Philly.