Philly neighbors, developer fight over fall mural

AP News
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Posted: Oct 24, 2011 4:32 PM
Philly neighbors, developer fight over fall mural

Neighbors trying to preserve a fall-themed mural in one Philadelphia neighborhood want the developers of the vacant lot next door to make like a tree and leave.

The artist who created "Autumn" and neighbors in the Bella Vista neighborhood have raised $250,000 to buy a lot on which a developer wants to build a town house. New construction would likely block the view of the mural of a small house nestled in a forest of color-changing foliage.

David Orphanides, an attorney for the developer that owns the property, said $250,000 would not cover his client's expected profit, which he estimated was closer to $600,000. Zoning officials have two weeks to consider the developers' request for a variance that would allow them to build on the lot.

The developers "feed their family by buying property, adding value and selling that added value because of skills and ability," Orphanides said. "It's commerce. That's commerce."

Paige Gottesman, 39, owner of Our House Montessori School, whose windows look out on the mural, said it was the reason she chose the site of her school, which she opened last year. She said she integrated the mural into her curriculum, asking students to interpret it.

"There's something about that mural that just moves people," Gottesman said of the mural, a warm-hued rendering of a small house in the middle of a fall forest and a girl holding a little bird.

Jane Golden, executive director of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, said she was heartened by the community support but was conflicted about questioning the developers' plan and hoped a compromise could be reached that would maintain or recreate the mural somewhere else.

"Cities are fluid and dynamic and changing," Golden said.

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Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.philly.com