Owner of collapsed Kensington warehouse owes over $300,000 in back taxes

fc63374e79bcf02409658d1e60eab807

A 38,000 square-foot vacant warehouse in Kensington came crashing down Wednesday afternoon, causing the evacuation of three homes and bringing to light yet another story of a delinquent landlord wreaking havoc on Philadelphia neighborhoods. But this wasn’t the first time the city heard about owner Refurbish It, Inc. or its property at 1835 – 61 E. Madison Street.

According to municipal records, the corporation hasn’t paid taxes on the building since it purchased it in 2003, resulting in nine liens taken out on the warehouse, one for each of the past consecutive nine years, and a whopping $33,252.70 owed in taxes, interest, fees and penalties.

The city sued Refurbish It over the property in November of 2010 and a judge ordered the building to sheriff’s sale due to tax delinquencies on November 1 and October 11, 2011, court records show. On February 22, 2012, a judge set a date for the sale to be held – March 21, 2012, over four months before it eventually crumbled to the ground.

What happened next is unclear. The property apparently did go to sheriff’s sale on the 21 and was bought for $54,000, but a new deed was never filed, suggesting that the buyer dropped out. The Sheriff’s Office did not return calls for comment Thursday.

L&I spokeswoman Maura Kennedy said that, while she can’t comment on the tax liens or sheriff’s sale issue, the owners have been cited for not having a license to own a vacant property and maintenance issues including rubbish and debris around the building’s exterior. Inspectors visited the property on July 25, just two weeks before its collapse, and declared it “structurally unsafe.”

“There’s three categories, the lowest being merely a vacant building,” Kennedy said. “If you walk out of your house tomorrow and lock the door, in six months, that’s a vacant building. ‘Unsafe’ means we don’t think it’s going to collapse within 90 days, but it has structural concerns.”

A building must be declared “imminently dangerous” for immediate action to occur. But Kennedy said that after the visit in late July, the city did decide to act by opening yet another court case, a process that was still ongoing when the building came down. “When we assessed it as unsafe, we took the steps to take it to equity court, which is the most serious type of court action we can take against a structure,” Kennedy said. “You can go to a judge and basically say, ‘Hey, judge, order the owner to make corrections for the violations we issued or we fix the violations and have the owner reimburse the city.’”

A fire department official on the scene of the collapse Thursday said that cleanup was suspended until a gas leak that sprung up on the site was repaired. He also said the department has received “conflicting reports” as to whether there was anyone inside the building when it fell and workers will be sorting through the rubble looking for bodies.

The legal battle over the East Madison Street warehouse isn’t Refurbish It, Inc.’s first time at the sheriff’s sale rodeo, either.

The city sued Refurbish It for tax delinquency in 2008 regarding a property at 2081 E. Ann Street, which was sent to sheriff’s sale in May of 2009 and it was purchased for $13,500. An additional $16,298.18 in damages were assessed against the company, according to court records.

Wachovia Bank sued also Refurbish It for financial delinquency over a property at 1914 E. Somerset Street in 2009. The company stopped paying taxes on that building in 1997, resulting in 15 liens and $18,335 owed in taxes, interest and penalties. A judge ordered the building to sheriff’s sale in March of 2009 and June of 2010, but the case is still listed as active in the municipal database and Refurbish It still owns the property, according to city tax records. A recent visit to the property revealed that it is currently a vacant lot.

George Capewell, the man listed as the owner of Refurbish It, Inc. on state business records, also owns several delinquent properties under his own name, many of them mere blocks from the site of the collapse. In addition to Refurbish It’s debts, Capewell owes at least $260,000 in taxes for at least 13 properties on which 201 liens have been assessed, according to city tax records, and had a 14th property go to sheriff’s sale in 2009.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

City Council to discuss officer re-training

The New York City Council has set a Sept. 8 oversight hearing to learn more about the NYPD's review of police officer training in the…

Local

Brooklyn lawmakers: Let riders know sooner about bedbugs…

Two Brooklyn lawmakers are calling for more transparency when it comes to bedbugs and mass transit. Council Member Mark Treyger and Assembly Member Bill Colton…

Local

Jasper Johns aide admits stealing, selling artwork for…

A former assistant to renowned American contemporary artist Jasper Johns pleaded guilty on Wednesday to selling nearly two dozen of his works without Johns' knowledge.

National

Sister of accused Boston Marathon bombers arrested for…

The sister of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was arrested in New York City for threatening a woman over the phone, saying she could "put a bomb on you," police…

Movies

Interview: 'Life of Crime' star John Hawkes likes…

John Hawkes talks about playing a bumbling crook in "Life of Crime" and how he wanted his "Martha Marcy May Marlene" villain to be "bland."

Gossip

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got married

The couple tied the knot in Chateau Miraval, France.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

NFL

Giants vs. Patriots: 3 things to watch

The Giants wrap up their extended preseason campaign Thursday night by playing host to the Patriots.

NFL

Fantasy football: What to take away from preseason

The third set of exhibition games, which went down last weekend, is the dress rehearsal week.

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…