Ori Feibush, Philadelphia Real Estate Developer, in Hot Water After Refurbishing City's Vacant Lot
A Philadelphia businessman took $20,000 from his own pocket to transform a trash-filled city-owned lot overgrown with weeds into a beautiful outdoor mini-park. Long-frustrated neighbors sang his praises for his deed -- but the city calls him a trespasser and is threatening to take him to court, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.
Ori Feibush (pictured at left), a real estate developer, had tried to buy the neglected 1,600-square-foot lot for years, but the city wouldn't let him. According to ABC News, Feibush was preparing last month to open his own coffee shop adjacent to the rundown lot -- with its cracked and broken sidewalks -- and that's when he decided to take matters into his own hands.
"I didn't wake up one morning and spend tens of thousands of dollars to remove blight that was a danger to residents and customers," he told ABC News.
Feibush did go to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to reveal his plans for the space before initiating the $20,000 venture. He said that the agency told him that it would take care of cleaning the lot and that he did not have permission to enter it.
"They promised they would get around to it," Feibush said. "I did not believe I could open up a coffee shop when people couldn't traverse the sidewalk."
After getting frustrated when the lot was not tended to, Feibush used his money to clear out what he estimated to be 40 tons of debris, including removing weeds and trash. He also had a new sidewalk poured and brought in a bench and a picnic table. He said that families frequent the property now.
"This was a lot of garbage," resident Elaine McGrath told the Philadelphia Daily News, referring to the old, neglected lot. "Now it's gorgeous. I'm excited."
The city doesn't see it that way.
"Like any property owner, [the authority] does not permit unauthorized access to or alteration of its property," Paul D. Chrystie, director of communications at Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development, told the Daily News in an email. "This is both on principle (no property owner knowingly allows trespassing) and to limit taxpayer liability."
Chrystie added that the agency is "actively reviewing its options at this time" against Feibush.
"They said we need to return it to the condition we found it in immediately," Feibush said. "They don't like nice things."
The city contends that the lot Feibush refurbished was one of many city-owned properties up for sale but that it has no record of Feibush's interest in buying the land. Feibush said that he has filed seven written requests and made 24 phone calls to the city to take over the property.
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