A reader tipped us off about construction taking place at the corner of 21st and Annin Sts., so we found five minutes when it wasn’t pouring and checked it out. When we arrived on the scene, there was no work actively going on, but we did discover six fresh foundations spanning 2046-2056 Annin St., along with a truck with a stack of form work on its bed.
The lots are owned by Roman Mosheyev, who purchased them earlier this year for $159K and intends to build three story single-family homes with roof decks, according to the zoning application. If you happen to walk down this block, you will immediately understand why this is a big deal.
It’s one of the most bombed out blocks in the neighborhood! On the north side of the street are the backs of the houses on Ellsworth St., which are not exactly welcoming. But it’s better than the south side, which is about eighty-percent vacant. Of the handful of houses that are still standing, most are boarded up buildings begging to be torn down or threatening to simply fall over by themselves. We’re not sure how long the rest of the block has been this bad, but we do know that these six lots have been vacant since at least 1991, when they were procured by St. Paul Chapel Baptist Church, located around the corner at 21st and Manton Sts.
The church acquired the six lots on Annin St. along with 2055-59 Federal St. in 1991. For $2,500. We’re not sure who owned the lots beforehand, but our wild, speculative guess would be the City of Philadelphia. Ooh, and do you want to guess the property taxes for those lots on Federal St.? That’s right, nuthin’. Seems they were paying $158 per year for all three lots through 2006, but their tax obligation disappeared once 2007 rolled around.
One can argue for or against churches being exempt from property taxes for buildings in active use as places of worship, but no rational person would argue that churches should be exempt from paying property taxes on vacant land. Without the pressure of a fair property tax, churches can and do sit on potentially valuable parcels indefinitely. Case in point: Twenty years of vacancy for six parcels on the 2000 block of Annin St.
As little appetite as our local politicians have for standing up to churches, this situation needs to change right away.
Sigh, who are we kidding?