Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Why is there a plastic-covered mansion in Cherry Hill?

The under-construction mansion at 1138 Winding Drive in Cherry Hill is covered in plastic because work on the site has stalled. The home is described as an eyesore in the neighborhood. (Emily Babay / Philly.com)
The under-construction mansion at 1138 Winding Drive in Cherry Hill is covered in plastic because work on the site has stalled. The home is described as an eyesore in the neighborhood. (Emily Babay / Philly.com)
Story Highlights
  • Denise Williams’ mansion stands empty and covered in plastic five years after construction.
  • Williams indicated in 2012 she planned to finish work at the mansion.
  • Her construction permits are valid through the end of 2014.

Correction: This story was updated after singer Deniece Williams issued a statement saying she is not the owner of the home in this article.

In early 2009, construction began on a mansion on a quiet, wooded Cherry Hill street filled with elegant homes. The planned $2.4 million, 20,000-square foot structure would have fit in nicely with the neighborhood. 

But nearly five years later, the mansion stands empty and covered in plastic.

The residence at 1138 Winding Drive is wrapped in gray plastic from the roof to the ground. The only glimpses of the structure itself are through tears in the covering.

Property owner Denise Williams demolished an existing 2,500-square-foot ranch home on the property in late 2008, according to records and township officials. She began construction the next year. The building continued through 2010 when work was done to the roof. 

Since then, construction has stalled, leaving the unfinished mansion covered in plastic and looking out of place in the ritzy neighborhood.

"We’ve heard from a number of residents through the years," Cherry Hill spokeswoman Bridget Palmer said. "This has been frustrating for a number of years."

The township initially identified Grammy Award-winning singer Deniece Williams as the owner of the property. After the story was published, Williams -- who did not respond to an earlier request for comment -- issued a statement, saying: "I was shocked to hear that I am accused of being a slum homeowner in Cherry Hill, N.J. This is a case of mistaken identity. The owner of the house and I share the same name and that is all."

Palmer said the homeowner represented herself to officials and neighbors as the R&B, disco and gospel singer, who is noted for the song "Let's Hear it for the Boy."

When the township last communicated with Denise Williams in 2012, Palmer said, the homeowner indicated she planned to finish work at the mansion.

Her construction permits are valid through the end of 2014. If the mansion isn't completed by then, Palmer said, Williams will have obtain new permits for the remaining work. 

The township last inspected the site in 2010 and hasn't been back because no other work is being done.

"There's not much more intervention," Palmer said. "Once the permits expire, there's more we can do."

There are no outstanding liens or citations against the property, though Williams was fined in 2008 for removing 96 trees from the site, 50 more than her permit allowed. 

Neighbors say the plastic-wrapped mansion is an eyesore. 

One woman, who has lived on the block for 10 years, said she was glad she doesn’t have to drive past the home to leave the street.

"I’m probably on the edge of tolerance," said the neighbor, who didn't want her name used. "Once you go past my trees, it’s in your face." 

Another neighbor is Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn, who declined to comment. 

The site is "depressing, frankly speaking," neighbor Klara Alperstein told CBS Philadelphia. "We are concerned each time there is a huge storm, and we’ve had some big ones, whether part of the building will fly into our property."

And Bob Stern, another resident, told the Cherry Hill Courier Post that the homeowner "defaced" the neighborhood.

"I just cannot believe this is here and there's no end in sight," he told the newspaper.


Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or ebabay@philly.com. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443 or BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

Emily Babay PHILLY.COM
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