Some bumps in the road for 'historic' designation

Stephanie Kindt, who supports a historic designation, outside her home on Overbrook Avenue.
Stephanie Kindt, who supports a historic designation, outside her home on Overbrook Avenue. (   Photos: SARAH J. GLOVER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 10, 2012

STEPHANIE KINDT lives in a spacious 113-year-old home in Overbrook Farms and is excited by the history of her neighborhood.

"The inventor of bubblegum lived around the corner from me," she said of Frank Fleer.

Kindt, a lawyer, is a member of the Overbrook Farms Club, which applied in 2004 to have the neighborhood designated a "historic district."

The neighborhood - laid out in 1892 on the western edge of the city between City Avenue and Morris Park - is on the National Register of Historic Places, but the local designation has its foes.

The Philadelphia Historical Commission is scheduled to review the proposal today, but Alan Greenberger, the city's deputy mayor for economic development, has asked the commission to once again postpone a decision.

Homeowners opposed to the designation said they're afraid it would make repairs more expensive and time-consuming.

Kindt said homeowners could make any changes they wanted inside their homes (she remodeled her kitchen in 2008), but would have to ensure that exterior changes follow guidelines.

Opponents, meanwhile, say they don't like the idea of anyone telling them what they can or cannot do to their property.

Ramble John Krohn, better known as "Mad Men" theme song composer RJD2, moved to Overbrook Farms in 2010.

He said that historic homes shouldn't be torn down, but he sympathizes with those who worry that the designation would mean more expensive repairs.

"There are going to be people on fixed incomes and Social Security that have voiced some very serious concerns about being able to withstand the burdens that historic designation would bring," Krohn said.

Kindt said the designation is necessary because a number of educational and religious institutions have bought old homes, and at least one house has been torn down and replaced with two duplexes.

The homes on Overbrook Avenue, near Upland Way, are owned by the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, both a high school and a school for Talmudic studies for college-age students. A spokeswoman declined to comment.

"There's a lot of pressure on neighborhoods where you have large, single-family homes near various institutions," said Kevin Maurer, president of the Overbrook Farms Club

"In addition to maintaining the unique architectural heritage of the city . . . it will also help us as homeowners maintain our single-family residential character and lessen the pressure of people who want to convert [houses] into boarding houses."

City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said yesterday that he opposes the designation because of neighborhood opposition. Spokeswoman Michelle Wilson said Jones wants neighbors to "negotiate at the table" and "come to an amicable conclusion."

Maurer argues that the law doesn't require a vote among neighbors.

"Even though there's the pressure coming from a small vocal minority, out of about 400-plus residences, we now have over 200 people in support," he said, noting that people have become more educated since public hearings in November.

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