Jewelers in nation's oldest diamond district get eviction notices

Christie Ileto Image
Friday, April 12, 2019
Jewelers in Nation's Oldest Diamond District Evicted
Jewelers in nation's oldest diamond district evicted. Christie Ileto has more on Action News at 11 p.m. on April 10, 2019.

"All my work, all my everything that is my life. In the same studio for 30 years and all of a sudden 60 days to vacate," said jeweler Jane Theis.

With an eviction notice in hand, Theis and several tenants in five buildings along the iconic Jewelers' Row are being forced out to make way for a proposed high rise condo by Toll Brothers.

Part of the nation's oldest diamond district will soon be no more.

"They're throwing it away and it breaks my heart!" Theis said.

On the other end of the 700 block of Sansom Street, some jewelers are worried they're next.

"We were sent letters they were going to list the building," said Marc Greene.

Greene has been at his location for almost 50 years.

"There's a lot of family business out here and you get nervous you will suddenly be uprooted. What are you doing to do? This is our livelihood!" Greene said.

It has been an ongoing fight for almost three years. Many businesses tried to preserve the block, while some supported the developer.

And while Jewelers' Row is on a National Registry, it's not a designated historical landmark with the city.

"It was not on any registry list and they're trying to get the whole area on a registry list now, but we used everything we could," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "We talked to the owners and they decided to tear it down."

With demolition in sight, the city has asked Toll Brothers to maintain as much of the historical facade as possible, but for residents, it's generations of memories destroyed.

"Whenever I tell people where I live, they're like, 'Oh yeah, I bought my engagement ring on that street,'" Kate Verstereade said.

"They certainly can provide another location for Toll Brothers to make it work. Why would they pick Jewelers' Row? That's a shame," said Bill Viola.

The city and Preservation Alliance is now working to put the rest of Jewelers' Row on the city's register for historic places. It will be reviewed in August.

Action News reached out to Toll Brothers about plans for demolition. They said they would not comment.

As for the tenants, they have to vacate by the end of May.