"We're so relieved," said Ainé Doley, 34, who was a teenager when the first of the two was rendered uninhabitable by fire. "The workers told us one of the houses was leaning badly and could have collapsed any day."
Although neighbors have been filing complaints about the houses - one owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the other by a defunct church - for nearly 20 years, it took a campaign by the Doleys to get the city's attention. The Doleys - Ainé and Emaleigh, 27 - organized a series of cleanups this last year, which they chronicled on rocklandstreet.com.
Then, on May 29, an Inquirer story about a blockwide planting day caught Nutter's eye on his way to the gym.
"I said to myself, 'Let me take a detour and see what's going on,' " Nutter recounted.
Ainé Doley took Nutter on a block tour, showing him the derelict houses. He said, "We're going to help your block."
Sure enough, a surveying crew showed up a few days later. On Friday, demolition crews started work.
Nutter said the pair was on a list of buildings to be demolished with federal stimulus money, but he intervened to make them a priority. "When neighbors are trying to make something happen, we, the city, have to meet them halfway," he said.
The Doley sisters met Monday with DePaul Catholic School officials to discuss building a library. In the interim, they plan to install raised beds for a community garden.
Contact staff writer Inga Saffron at 215-854-2213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.