It seems that folks hoping for change at the intersection of 13th and Spruce streets are going to have to wait a little bit longer. The city's Department of Licenses and Inspections has ordered renovations to cease immediately at the former Parker Spruce Hotel.
When news broke that the building was bought and going to turn into a contemporary Fairfield Inn & Suites, residents were relieved. After all, for years, the hotel had degenerated into total dereliction, with scenes of drugs, prostitution and American misery, described as rivaling those found in fictional pulp novels.
Even the Philadelphia Business Journal called it an "infamous Center City flophouse."
Still, the renovations taking place weren't without their own criticism. Writing for Philadelphia magazine, James Jennings profiled a meeting in Oct. 2015 between the renovation project's manager, The Wankawala Organization, and the Washington Square West Civic Association.
At that meeting, residents complained about "dust billowing from the site," Jennings reported, with one neighbor lamenting that he had to clean out "his air conditioning units 'no fewer than six times since [Wankawala] started the demo.'"
The John C. Anderson apartment building, an LGBT-friendly senior living complex, sits next to the work site.
Back in October, residents there said they were severely impacted by the new construction going on. According to Philadelphia magazine, one resident wound up at the doctor "with an unknown ailment," this person said, "because of the dust that I was inhaling repeatedly."
That dust has gotten the attention of Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections, apparently.
A cease work order was posted on the site on Dec. 24, immediately halting all renovations. The candy-striped bill has the words, "CEASE OPERATIONS/STOP WORK ORDER," emblazoned across its top. On that poster, the city insists that corrective action ought to take place before workers may resume work again.
And what, exactly, does L&I mean by corrective action?
"Obtain proper dust prevention methods."
Along with architectural renderings of what the hotel will eventually look like after developers are finished construction, a printed metal sign hangs on a chain link fence surrounding the worksite. It cites Tapan Das as spokesperson for any and all "renovation related queries."
When Metro called that number, a man who identified himself as Tapan Das answered.
"I don't know anything about that," Das insisted, when asked about the cease work order.
When told that the order from L&I was posted back on Christmas Eve, Das insisted he didn't even know work had ceased.
When asked about the dust at the site, Das repeatedly said, "I don't know." He added that, despite being the public spokesman for the project, he only goes to the site "two times a week" and has "no idea" what goes on there.
Metro asked Das if there was another person who might be able to answer questions relating to the dust – or why the work was ordered to cease or what the owners plan to do about it.
He asserted that he was, in fact, the spokesman.
But, he said, "Nobody tells me what's going on there."