Demolition Appears Inevitable

Posted: September 13, 1987

Plans to demolish one of Narberth's 18th-century buildings have left preservationists in the borough feeling helpless.

"There doesn't seem to be an awful lot we can do legally," said David Brawer, president of the Narberth Preservation Committee, which was formed to raise the community's consciousness about the historic value of some of the borough's older buildings.

Brawer was bemoaning the impending demolition of a rundown old house at 1226 Montgomery Ave. that dates back to 1725. The house, which was vacant for a year, was purchased recently by the owners of Evviva restaurant next door. The Wakims, the three brothers who own the restaurant, want to demolish the house and use the property for additional parking.

The borough in August denied the Wakims' request for a variance that would enable them to use the residentially zoned property as a commercial parking lot, but the Wakims plan to file an appeal in Montgomery County Court, contending that the borough did not take action on their request within the required 60-day period.

Nevertheless, the Wakims applied for a permit Sept. 1 to demolish the structure, and the borough has 60 days to act on the request.

"The application was accompanied by the required fee and the appropriate certificate of insurance," said borough manager William J. Martin, who told the Borough Council of the application at a work session Wednesday. Proof of liability insurance is required to protect the borough and surrounding property owners from the effects of the demolition.

"We are certainly upset and disappointed about it," Brawer said. "I just wish there was more we could do to effectively stop it."

Brawer added, however, that the destruction of the house could act as an impetus to get the borough moving toward the enactment of some historic- preservation legislation that would encourage the rehabilitation of some of the old buildings.

Such legislation is now in only a conceptual phase, and the only recourse preservationists have is to appeal to the good will of the property owner to incorporate the aging structures into their development plans.

Restaurateur Michel Wakim said the house was so badly deteriorated that there was no economically feasible means of restoring it.

"There are things you can save and things that go beyond the limit and become a losing proposition," Wakim said. "As a businessman, I have to make a wise decision. I would love to save it, but I can't."

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