250 New Condos Next to Wynnewood Station? Probably.

In November of 2000, Merloc Partners filed plans with Lower Merion Township to build a 280 new condos on the site of the historic Maybrook Estate, located next to the Wynnewood Train Station, a few hundred yards north of the intersection of Wynnewood Road and Penn Road.

Last month a major legal obstacle, which until now was preventing Merloc from implementing its plans, was removed; Merloc and the Borough of Narberth agreed to settle a lawsuit that the developer brought against Narberth in 2002.

Based on a plan that was approved by the Lower Merion Commissioners, Merloc figured on having two points of entry into its development, one on Penn Road (which lets out onto East Wynnewood Road across from a Bed Bath and Beyond), and another on North Wynnewood Ave, near the Narberth Playground. When Merloc’s plan was first made public, Narberth residents were irate. The way they saw it, Lower Merion was going to get more traffic and a lot more new tax revenue. (All of the Maybrook property is in Lower Merion.) Narberth was going to get its share of the traffic too, but without a dime in new taxes to show for it.

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Bala Cynwyd Church Does Not Rule Out “Purchase Leaseback”

Yesterday Property reported that the beautiful Bala Cynwyd United Methodist Church on Levering Mill Road was for sale. Narberth real estate agency Duffy Real Estate Inc. is listing the property for $1,500,000. Today we talked about the church buildings with Michael Duffy.

He said that the church is for sale because the size of its congregation has declined. In addition to exploring any and all options with respect to its building, the members of the congregation are also looking into various options as to where and with whom they will be worshiping.

An ideal scenario from the congregation’s point of view, according to Duffy, would be to find a buyer who would be willing to lease the sanctuary back to the congregation. Duffy also said that the church “would not rule out” the possibility of keeping the sanctuary and only selling the education building.

As is usually the case, the zoning issues will probably add some complications to the potenital sale.

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Lawyer Who Battled Basciano: “His Pitch Was That He Was Working to Change Things.”

Steven_WigrizerAttorney Steven Wigrizer and Richard Basciano will probably be crossing paths–again.

Basciano is the owner of the building that collapsed and killed six people in the Salvation Army store at 22nd and Market. In 2000, Wigrizer won a $5.25 million settlement on behalf of Judge Berel Caeser’s family. Caeser was killed in 1997 when he was struck by a sign that fell off a building on Broad Street near Pine. The building was owned by the estate of Philadelphia’s most notorious slumlord, Sam Rappaport. Basciano was the executor of Rappaport’s estate.

Before the case was settled, the two men met face to face when Wigrizer deposed Basciano. Wigrizer recalled Basciano as being “personable, forthcoming, and calm.”

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It Can Be Done: Homes in Lower Merion for Less Than $200K

Do you have your heart set on buying a home in fabulous Lower Merion Township? Take a look at this 8,000 square foot gem in Gladwyne.

What’s that? $3,250,000 is more than you want to spend? Don’t be silly. Everything is negotiable. Go in with an offer of $2.6 million. You’ll go back and forth a few times and then you’ll close for $2.9 million. But at that price it will probably have to be a cash deal.

Beg your pardon? That’s a little more than 10 times the amount you can afford?

Well podnah, guess what? For under $200k we can get you into a single family home in the charming, picturesque, Lower Merion neighborhood of Belmont Hills. You’ll be able to enroll your kids into those fancy township schools (Belmont Hills Elementary, Welsh Valley Middle School, and the brand spankin’new Rosemont Taj Mahal, aka Harriton High), but you won’t have to deal with any kindergarten lotteries.

Unfortunately, you also won’t be able to walk to the Paoli Local (or whatever they call it now), nor will you enjoy the 1.6 acres at the end of a cul de sac, with the proper landscaping and the serenity of nature. There will be no impressive foyer. Guaranteed, your kitchen will not have granite countertops. And you’ll have to make do without soaring ceilings and stairs to a private loft. There are some details, though–to which zero attention has been paid.

Nonetheless, substitutions do exist. You won’t have a spectacular in-ground pool, but if you’re dying for a dip, take a 15-minute walk to the Belmont Hills Pool. It’s adjacent to the Belmont Hills Library, where your membership entitles you to borrow books, movies, and CDs from any of the township’s libraries. Best of all, when you walk home, it’s downhill all the way.

If you can’t get over the ignominity of being shunned by Architectural Digest, you can drown your sorrows at either of the two neighborhood watering holes: Mel’s Italian or La Collina. The latter is a legitimate contender for having the best views among all the restaurants in the region. Manayunk is also close; in fact it’s so close, until the early 1950s, Belmont Hills was actually called West Manayunk. History buffs click here.

One major caveat about this community: It’s a place where people actually know their neighbors, and in some cases even enjoy being with them. There’s a strong civic association, which is a good way to meet folks, but don’t even think about making it in Belmont Hills society until you’ve joined the volunteer fire company.

Have we captured your interest? Take a look at these three properties.

• 135 Fairview Ave. $199,000

• 151 Springfield Ave. $179,995

• 79 Jefferson St. $159,000

Building Collapse Legal Q&A: Who Pays Out? Who Gets Sued?

The lawyers are gathering–that much we know. But who is legally responsible for what happened? Or, perhaps better said, who will be targeted as legally responsible in various legal actions? As one local developer said, “Follow the money”–because much of what happens from here on out will be motivated by dollars and cents.

We spoke to Peg Underwood and Henry Donner of Jacoby Donner, a Philadelphia law firm that specializes in construction litigation. We also spoke with a local developer who preferred to remain anonymous. All three shared insights gleaned from past experience, which we put into a Q&A.

Will Griffin T. Campbell, owner of the construction company that performed the demolition, have to pay out?
A licensed contractor in Philadelphia is required to have an insurance policy for which he makes regular payments. He may also elect to have excess policy as well, which is added financial protection. Any successful lawsuit against Campbell would take the limit of the insurance. Beyond that, he’d be liable out of pocket and so would probably declare personal bankruptcy (something he’s done before).

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Philly Officials Will Not Crack Down on Airbnb Rental Hosts

Airbnb.com is a hot, Silicon Valley-based company that’s enjoyed phenomenal growth with a very simple business model: It acts as a market maker for short-term vacation rentals. The company has been in the news lately because an administrative law judge in New York City smacked an Airbnb host, as they’re called, with a $2,400 fine for allegedly running an “illegal hotel.”

Nigel Warren used the Airbnb website as his promotional tool and logistical facilitator to rent out one of the two bedrooms in his East Village apartment. The rental was for three nights at $100 per night, and his roommate was there for all three nights.

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Oh, Rats!

ratAdmit it, you were morbidly fascinated by the story of the rat infestation at Green Eggs. And of course you clicked on that disgusting YouTube link.

But rats aren’t just in one restaurant, they’re all over the city. And readers have been asking: How do they get into a restaurant? How will the restaurant get rid of them once they’re in? And where do they live otherwise?

We talked to John DiDomenico from A.Amendt Pest Control. With 25 years experience as an exterminator, he knows his rats. DiDomenico said the broken sewer pipe explanation that Green Eggs gave was plausible, but rats have other ways of getting into homes and commercial establishments–including “climbing out of toilets.”

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Alleged: Butkovitz Spent Taxpayers’ Money to Score Political Points

Butkovitz-MandellOn Wednesday, City Controller Alan Butkovitz’s office released a study that concluded “the actual value initiative (AVI) did not improve accuracy, uniformity and fairness.” The full study (a real page-turner), which cost the taxpayers $27,000 (according to Philly.com), was done by Carnegie-Mellon Economics Professor Robert Strauss. It is 47 pages long and has lots of colored graphs and charts.

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