Last summer, we told you that the Archdiocese had shuttered the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization at 12th & Lombard and we speculated that a developer would soon purchase the building. When we contacted the Archdiocese, they indicated that the property was still in their possession but told us that they would eventually market the property for sale. They even said they would give us the heads up when the time comes. But alas, we got no phone call and no email and now it seems that they've found a buyer for the former church.
Yesterday, a reader sent us a link to a story from the Philadelphia Tribune with an update on the status of the property. Last month, the Archdiocese gave notice to the parishes in the Black Catholic Community that they wish to sell the church. Thanks to a deed restriction on the property, they can't simply execute a sale but must instead hold a hearing on the subject. That hearing will take place at City Hall in Room 416 on June 6th at 1:30pm.
According to the article, leaders of several African American Catholic churches are upset about this development because of the historic nature of the building at 12th & Lombard. As we told you previously, the building was originally home to the Saint Peter Claver Parish Church, dedicated in 1892 and named for a saint who fought the slave trade. It was the first Catholic church in the city specifically for African Americans and is considered a "mother church."
The building has been on the Historic Register since the 1980s so any effort to tear it down will be met with strong resistance from both the Historical Commission and members of the Catholic African American community. Still, we'd suspect that any developer with plans to buy this property could try to demolish it and replace it with homes like those across the street.
On the other hand, it seems likely that the sale of the church would come with the 10K sqft property immediately to the east which houses an old school which we don't believe to be protected as historic. So perhaps the developers would preserve and reuse the church and build on the large lot next door. We're just speculating at this point, but we could start to get some concrete answers as soon as next week.