James Brandenburger’s JRB Property Group, the owner of the Frederick S. Groves Mansion at 411 Lippincott Avenue, now wants to tear down this 1901 home of a steamboat company president after telling everyone for the past 10 months that he was going to sell it for restoration (without its side yards, on which he wanted to build new houses) and that he had a qualified buyer under agreement.
The Historical Society of Riverton and many neighbors have followed this situation closely and with growing concern, as that qualified buyer seems to have disappeared and the current owner has done no visible maintenance all year. Now it is listed on the Planning Board’s website for a hearing for a “Demolition Permit.”
Anyone can attend the hearing via Zoom here: https://zoom.us/j/99667220214?pwd=egmyc1ncm0tmtwruajb6b29dak9zut09 PASSCODE: 813512
Documents filed so far are available here.
The home is a “contributing resource” to our Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Riverton Zoning Code zones the Mansion for preservation with a solid demolition ordinance. You’ll see that it flatly says you cannot demolish for the purposes of subdivision, and otherwise, the owner must prove that it can’t economically be made “safe for habitation or use” and that costs relating to “normal maintenance” cannot be considered in that calculation.
Brandenburger has not yet revealed what his arguments in favor of demolition might be. It will be interesting to see, considering that we have heard from several folks interested in buying the whole place to restore, not just “make safe for habitation.”
This developer has a history of teardowns, including a similar situation in Haddon Township in 2017. Riverton, though, is a National Register Historic District and has a Master Plan that sets strong public policy against projects such as this.
This article is a follow-up to previously published columns in the May 2021 and August 2021 issues of the Gaslight News as well as in these website posts – A unique Riverton restoration opportunity! April 13, 2021 and Save the Groves Mansion and grounds; Save the neighborhood Aug. 20, 2021