To: Irene Madrak, Kevin Smith
Cc: Joshua Cohen
Subject: Former Saint Mary of the Assumption Property
Date: Sun, 7 May 2017
Dear Irene and Kevin,
I received correspondence from both of you on behalf of the North Light Community Center (dated Friday, April 28, 2017 and hand delivered Monday, May 1, 2017) and the Manayunk Neighborhood Council (emailed Friday, May 5, 2017) respectively requesting that Saint John the Baptist parish not continue or extend the agreement of sale for the former Saint Mary of the Assumption property on Conarroe Street with American Living Concepts of Manayunk. Please know that both of your request were received after an extension was already entered into with the buyer/developer.
Below is part of my "Pastor's Message" that I shared with the parish community on the weekend of April 29 & 30, 2017, offering an explanation for the extension of the agreement. Also, note that I have made response to the questions unexpectedly presented to me at the March 22 community meeting and posted them on the parish website in a pdf document entitled, "Response to MNC March 22, 2107 Community Meeting."
In the future, if this matter necessitate a meeting between either of our communities, I would certainly revisit your invitations. In the meantime, I am willing to meet to discuss any other matters that would help build stronger community relationships among the North Light Community Center, the Manayunk Neighborhood Council and Saint John the Baptist Church.
Monsignor Kevin C. Lawrence
Saint John the Baptist Church
146 Rector Street
Manayunk, Philadelphia, PA 19127
O: 215.482.4600, Ext 14.
Saint Mary of the Assumption: In a previous "Pastor's Message" (March 2016), I informed the parish that I had entered into an agreement of sale for the property of the former Saint Mary of the Assumption Church on Conarroe Street on behalf of the parish. This agreement is with developer Jack Bienenfeld and American Living Concepts of Manayunk. Part of the City of Philadelphia Zoning Code includes provisions for ensuring that neighbors of proposed developments are notified and have an opportunity to provide input regarding zoning decisions that may impact them. In compliance with this, the Manayunk Neighborhood Council (MNC) hosted a community meeting on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, at the North Light Community Center.
I was invited to attend the meeting and agreed to do so in order to introduce the developer. However, shortly before the meeting I learned that I was scheduled to participate in a "question and answer" session concerning the sale of Saint Mary. While the agenda for the meeting did not quite adhere to why I originally agreed to attend, I did my best to answer the questions asked. If I was not prepared to answer a question, I promised to respond to those questions in writing at a later date. I have posted my responses to these questions on our parish web site in a document entitled, "Response to Community Questions / Manayunk Neighborhood Council Meeting March 22, 2017." Overall I was grateful to be present and listen to some of the insights and concerns of the community. As you may know from media coverage and the MNC website, those at the meeting did not support the proposed development plan.
With work still needed on the development plan for the site, last week the developer requested another three month extension on the agreement of sale; the terms to which I have agreed. This will be the third extension following the original due diligence period. I remain convinced that that the buyer shares the parish's overarching desire that any redevelopment plan must be in the best interests of not only the parish, but the immediate neighbors as well as the larger Manayunk community. For example, since the developer showed interest in the property, I have asked that the parking needs of the North Light Community Center be given some consideration. Although he is under no obligation to do so, the developer has made efforts to do so meeting with North Light several times to discuss the possibility of providing limited parking for the Center.
With the extension, much of the pending process is out of our hands for the next three month. In the meantime, however, we wait, pray and hope for the best!