New Jersey developer has plans to save historic St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A developer is planning to save the historic St. Laurentius Church in Philadelphia's Fishtown section.

Its twin spires have been a landmark over Fishtown since the 1800s, but for the past 6 years, the fate of St. Laurentius Church, the city's first Polish parish, has been in question.

From the ground, it's evident how the building is crumbling.

"I've had every one of my kids go to this school and my two youngest now have to worry about chunks of building falling on their head when they're out playing for recess," said William Maude of Kensington.

The church itself is closed but more than 100 kids still go to school next door. Some families have been here for generations.

"It breaks my heart. I mean, I've been a long-time parishioner of St. Laurentius and I'm glad schools still here, so it's good," said Jeannette Jalkowski, who's lived in Fishtown her entire life.

The "good news" for this neighborhood came last week when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia confirmed the building had been sold to a New Jersey developer named Humberto Fernandini.

The Archdiocese said in a statement, "While it is disappointing that this day did not come much sooner due to a variety of challenges, all are relieved that the building has been sold."

Neighbors, like attorney AJ Thomson, think this could have happened much sooner.

"This is important to not just the history of Polish people, but all Catholics in Philadelphia," said Thomson.

He's been fighting for years against potential demolition; he says it was the dying wish of the pastor.

"As he was passing away in the hospital, he left me a voicemail saying do whatever you can to keep the parish and the school going," recalled Thompson.

Fernandini says his goal is to keep the church standing, but he has a lot to figure out with the structural integrity of the building. Until then, he says there's no final plan for this space.
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