Nov. 27 (UPI) -- The city of Philadelphia and the Church of Scientology are having trouble seeing eye to eye about a tall, vacant building that has sat empty since the church bought it more than six years ago for $7.85 million.
Philadelphia's Department of Licenses & Inspections plans on taking the church to Blight Court over the 15-story structure since, despite the promise to renovate and occupy the building, no work has ever been done and it has fallen into disrepair.
According to the website for the "Philadelphia Freedom Org," that certainly wasn’t the plan:
“At fifteen stories in height, The Freedom Org is the Church's first ‘skyscraper’, a shining example of the religion that can -and does- secure Total Freedom for all. The new Scientology Church in Philadelphia is located a short walk from City Hall and just a few blocks away is that area known as Old City, featuring Independence Hall, Carpenter's Hall, the American Philosophical Society, the Betsy Ross House and much, much more.”
The building reportedly has a market value of $7.3 million.
"I don't understand what's going on there," said Paul Levy, president of the Center City District. "It's obviously a free country, and they bought the building, but here we are six years later, and they've done nothing. It's not only not contributing to the street and acting to the detriment to the city, it's also not a tax revenue."
L&I spokeswoman Rebecca Swanson said the church has been in violation of Philly's "doors-and-windows" ordinance since January for having "multiple boarded windows." Further, the church has obtained no permits for construction on the building.
After a trip to Blight Court, the violations could result in fines of up to $300 per day for each boarded opening.
"The property owner has failed to comply [with] the violation, despite notice from L&I, and the building remains a blighting influence on the block and the neighborhood," Swanson said.
Philadelphia isn't the first city to take up a fight against the Church of Scientology.
[Philadelphia Daily News] [Philadelphiaideal.org]