Developer won't raze historic Rittenhouse Coffee Shop

SKY20-a
The Rittenhouse Coffee Shop on the 1900 block of Sansom Street on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

The company planning a retail, residential, and office tower near Rittenhouse Square says it is withdrawing a request to demolish one of three historical structures nearby as part of its development plan.

Nashville-based Southern Land Co. will withdraw its application to the Philadelphia Historical Commission to demolish the 1855-vintage Rittenhouse Coffee Shop building at 1904 Sansom St., the company said in a statement Friday.

But its applications to demolish the Warwick apartment building, built in 1903, and the Oliver Bair funeral home, from 1910, will remain in place, the company said.

"The firm looks forward to presenting a plan that will balance preservation ideals with economic feasibility," it said.

The three structures are protected as part of the Rittenhouse-Fitler historic district. The coffee shop also is considered significant because of its elaborate tile facade.

Southern Land said it would be a financial hardship to preserve the deteriorated structures in its request to demolish them as part of its plan for a 600,000- to 700,000-square-foot building on a now-empty lot at 1911 Walnut St. The three historic buildings sit north of the Walnut Street parcel, between Moravian and Sansom Streets.

The decision to preserve the coffee shop came after meetings with the Center City Residents Association and the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the company said.

CCRA president Charles Goodwin declined to discuss specifics of his group's ongoing talks with the developer.

Preservation Alliance advocacy director Patrick Grossi said that his association had an inconclusive meeting with the developer Thursday, but that it was welcome news that the coffee shop's demolition would not be sought.

"But we still need to assess what the possibilities are with the Warwick and the Bair funeral home," Grossi said.

Southern Land's statement was released hours after its director of multifamily development, Dustin Downey, said in a panel discussion on city real estate that the company would work with community members on the buildings' fates.

jadelman@phillynews.com

215-854-2615 @jacobadelman