The site of the Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market streets will become a memorial garden once the city acquires the site under legislation now before City Council. The City Planning Commission voted to endorse the bill at its April 15 meeting.
The City Planning Commission granted approval at its April 15 meeting for the city to acquire the land where the former Salvation Army thrift store once stood at 22nd and Market streets, before the tragic collapse of a neighboring building that killed six people there last June, for a memorial garden for the victims.
On June 5 last year, the adjacent wall of a four-story building being demolished collapsed onto the thrift store in the middle of the day and killed the six people, all of whom were either employees or customers of the store. The tragedy led to the passage of new demolition regulations. The Salvation Army still owns the narrow site at the corner of 22nd and Market, which is right across Ludlow Street from the Mütter Museum.
The remains of the thrift store and the neighboring buildings were removed months ago, and both the sites are now dirt lots. Family members of the victims had started a campaign to build a memorial on the site of the thrift store shortly after the collapse occurred.
The commission voted unanimously to endorse Property Bill 140224, which authorizes the Commission of Public Property to acquire 2140 Market Street, the site’s official address. CIty Councilman Bill Greenlee (D-at large) introduced the bill for Council President Darrell Clarke (D-5th District; western Center City and North Philadelphia) on March 27. Planning Commission staff member Marty Gregorski, who introduced the bill at the meeting, explained that another bill would be necessary to transfer the property to the Department of Parks and Recreation at a later date. The garden will be designed by a landscape architect to be chosen by a competiton. As of now, there is no money budgeted for the garden at all, not even for the design.
Commissioner Pat Eiding asked about the large lot to the east where the collapsed building sat; Gregorski said that site would be turned into a parking lot, most likely a temporary one. It was uncertain whether any development could happen before the litigation is complete concerning that site, and there is no word about whether the lot’s owner, Richard Basciano, who is the defendant in multiple lawsuits since the collapse occurred during demolition by a contractor he hired, will sell the lot anytime soon. When one commissioner pointed out that it was a nice thing for the site to be preserved as a memorial, Gregorski mentioned that the Salvation Army had been very helpful and cooperative in the process.
This section of Market Street is likely to see more development soon, which is one reason why Basciano was demolishing the buildings he owned in the first place. He was hoping to sell the site to a developer for profit, but now he may have to sell the site in order to pay his legal bills and possible judgments, possibly sooner rather than later. The lot that he owns may become the site of a large building, since Mayor Michael Nutter previously said that that site would not be a part of the memorial garden. Building this memorial would be a step towards healing and bring some closure to such a tragedy while starting to beautify this block and intersection, therefore making further development more likely.
Photo by the author