Armory’s Developer Not Known for Preservation, But the Building Has to Come Down

The Broad Street armory as seen a couple days ago.

The Broad Street armory as seen a couple days ago.

Michael Carosella, the developer who owns the dilapidated armory on the 1200 block of South Broad, is not exactly known for preservation work. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the latest news about the armory–first built in 1886 for the Third Regiment of the National Guard–is that it’s going to be demolished.

Initially, the armory was sold with a “no demo” stipulation. But that was vacated, and by the time Carosella bought it a few days ago, his plan to demolish the building had been opposed only by neighborhood residents who felt it should be protected due to historical value–and due to the Frank Sinatra mural on its side. But that doesn’t matter now. Due to the Market Street disaster, the city wants the armory, which is in terrible shape, to be torn down quickly to avoid any collapse.

Carosella has been at the demo helm before. As a developer in Graduate Hospital, he demolished two old churches–one at Fitzwater and 19th  and the other at Fitzwater and 20th–to make way for the housing units below.

To some, this housing, designed by Harman Deutsch, represents burgeoning opportunity in a neighborhood that continues to acquire cachet as a real estate juggernaut. But on a recent stroll around the neighborhood, a Property associate bemoaned the generic design compared to the historical contours of the old church. And two longtime residents, who happened to be passing by, agreed: “That’s right, that’s right,” they said, shaking their heads in dismay. Below is a 2009 Google Street View of the church that Carosella tore down. We’ll concede this: It’s not exactly the Basilica.

fitzwater street church

Google Street View

The insightful historical blogger at Curator of Shit (one step removed from Philaphilia) bemoans the demolition of the armory, and Carosella’s involvement, in particular:

Actually, we think he might be shooting for a Philadelphia that looks more like Miami—especially when parking lots galore are involved. All and all, the old load bearing masonry pile could be reused, more interesting, and, in the long run, more attractive than the new, fleeting designs of Landmark Architectural Designs that are no doubt the product of Carosella’s bottom line and his general lack of taste and culture.

The Curator also asks, regarding the demolition:  “What is wrong with these people?” We don’t know if it’s wrong, exactly, but these people are scared. No one wants another Salvation Army disaster. And if this thing is coming down anyway, Carosella should apply for that demo permit posthaste.