The building has had problems with thieves, vandals, and drug activity. The district had been trying to sell it since it was closed, Gallard said.
Butkovitz said that in 2008 he told the district to tear down the 475,000-square-foot building.
Not only could the fire "have been prevented, but it was pretty obvious that this was going to happen," Butkovitz said. "There were many warning signals for many years."
The School District put more fencing around the building to prevent burglaries, but Butkovitz called those efforts "temporary Band-Aids."
On June 30, Gallard said, the district sold the building for $600,000 to 701 W. Lehigh Partners, which includes Mosaic Development Partners L.L.C. and Orens Bros. Real Estate Inc.
After working on an agreement for two years, Mosaic signed a deal with the School District to bring a Save-A-Lot grocery store to the site, which would include tearing down the distinctive front section of the parcel.
The more-modern rear addition would be renovated as 56 apartments for low-income seniors. The total cost of the project was estimated at $11 million.
City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, whose Seventh District includes the site, said that she was unsure how the fire would affect the project's fate and that she was particularly concerned about damage to the building's rear.
The fire started at 1:31 p.m. in the southwest corner of the roof, said First Battalion Chief Richard Davison, and took two hours to bring under control.
To see a video of the
fire at the former Edison High School, go to www.philly.com/northphillyfire
Contact staff writer Alia Conley
at 215-854-2917 or email@example.com.