Owner ordered to act on Girard Warehouses A judge set deadlines for shoring up the historic Front Street buildings. A $750,000 fine is at stake.

Posted: October 12, 2007

The owner of the decaying Girard Warehouses, the historic complex stretching along Front Street north of Market Street, must stabilize and seal the buildings by Nov. 29, a Philadelphia court ordered yesterday.

The owner, a private partnership, will be fined $750,000 if it does not adhere to a strict schedule of repairs, including reconstruction of two collapsed rear walls, Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan said.

The consent agreement arose from a suit that the city filed last week after construction and repair work on the buildings - about the last of the city's old commercial waterfront - apparently ceased, officials said.

The warehouses, six buildings built by Stephen Girard or his estate between 1828 and 1830, have suffered severe and accelerating deterioration in recent years. They are certified by the Philadelphia Historical Commission and on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

BRP Development Corp., a New York developer that had acted as the public face of the ownership, was dropped as a defendant in yesterday's order. That leaves 20-30 North Front Street L.L.C., registered in Delaware, as the sole named owner.

Geoff Flournoy, a cofounder of BRP, could not be reached yesterday for comment. On Wednesday, he said the partners had intended to complete repairs and stabilization and then convert the long-vacant buildings to luxury condominiums as planned.

According to court papers, Michelle Sweeney acquired the buildings in 2003 for $2.9 million. The city's court papers contend that Sweeney failed to correct numerous code violations, including removal of a collapsed rear building. The city sued in 2004. In October 2005, Sweeney sold the warehouses to the 20-30 North Front Street partnership for $10.

Flournoy said Wednesday that Sweeney and Philadelphia developer Tom Stafford retained an ownership interest in the warehouses. Neither could be reached yesterday for comment.

The Historical Commission has approved the condo conversion, but commission officials and inspectors from the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections became concerned when two rear walls collapsed in May.

The city's suit last week alleged a litany of code violations and destabilizing demolition on the buildings, including the removal, without permits, of structurally supportive windows and doors.

Yesterday's order directs the ownership to erect fencing and seal the rear of the property by Oct. 25. By Nov. 8, piles of bricks must be removed from building interiors and saved for reuse. By Nov. 29, windows and doors must be stabilized and covered; floors must be stabilized in 22 and 24 N. Front St., the buildings that lost rear walls; and the walls must be reconstructed.

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or ssalisbury@phillynews.com.

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