Historic preservationists have found a taker for at least one of the two homes Indiana Street that St. Spyridon church plans to demolish, but has yet to win the delay needed to get the paperwork done.
On Monday, the city issued permits to demolish the buildings, with its documents noting they are historic, according to the department of development services website. Art Balourdas, of Hampstead Partners, turned in the church's application and paid a total of $2,331 for both demolition permits, according to the website.
In a phone interview last week, Balourdas said he was acting as a member of the parish, not as a developer when he applied for them.
"What we're hearing is that relocation doesn't meet the church's timeline so they are going ahead with demolition," said Amy Hayes, from Save Our Heritage Organisation. "What we'd still like to do is talk with the church to see if they can delay demolition."
The two houses are on the 3600 block of Indiana, a block that is almost entirely owned by the church, on the north side of Cypress Street between Park and Indiana. The houses were custom-built (not tract houses) in the 1920s, about the time the church was constructed and one of them has been found eligible for historic designation. Because of the religious exemption, the church does not have to go through the torturous process of justifying its decision and doing impact reports on how it intends to use the land.
But it has been widely speculated that the church is using the exemption to prepare the land for development for a later deal.
Members of the North Park Planning Committee's project review subcommittee heard a presentation on what the community can do to keep the houses from being torn down Monday night, and the news wasn't encouraging.
"This is so frustrating when we know that at least one of these houses has been designated historic and this loophole lets them tear it down," said Dionne Carlson. "We'd like to encourage them to think about how it affects the community, and take a little more time to support their community."
"They have every right to do this (demolition), we just hope they will look at other ideas," she added. Joaquin Castro, who moves houses as part of his business, said that moving the house would save the church (or any owner) the $10,000 cost of demolition and disposing of the building materials.
"Saving a house is all about time," he said. "Nine times out of 10 it's about the developer's timeline. We have to go through getting a new permit from the city and their process takes time, but they save the demolition costs."
One of the dozen or so people who attended the meeting said he found himself thinking about the last time he went to the church's annual Greek festival
"The pastor showed me a model of what they wanted to build — it was just a wish, not a plan — where they wanted to tear down the old church and build a bigger one with a larger parish hall," he said. "They were planning to save the houses on the model."