Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hotel at Big Brothers Big Sisters Headquarters?

Once home to a film company, 238 North 13th Street is known to most Philadelphians as the former national office for Big Brothers Big Sisters, if it's known at all. 

Vacant for a few years now, the small art deco building stands less than a block from the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and as with much of the property between Vine and Race, developers are likely eyeing it for a potential hotel.

But the building is only two floors and stands on a small footprint. Yesterday, the city's Historical Commission voted to deny and unnamed developer's proposal for a tower atop the historic building. 

Howard B. Haas, a Philadelphia lawyer and prominent voice in the campaign to save the Boyd Theater's auditorium, had this to say on his Friends of the Boyd Facebook page:

Good news! Today, the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Architectural Committee unanimously recommended against allowing a hotel tower that would poorly fit in with the former Warner Brothers Film Exchange at 238 North 13th Street. It was designed in 1946 by William Howard Lee, one of our best movie theater architects and was later offices for the NFL. I wrote a letter of opposition for today's hearing. In 2007, I had assisted with the research & testified for the succesful historic designation of this lovely Art Moderne building. Thanks to the Preservation Alliance's Ben Leech & architect Rich Thom for leading the opposition.

Hopefully we won't see the Boyd's fate replay itself. Considering the building's proximity to the Convention Center and Center City itself, the property is likely too expensive to be sustained as a modest office building. 

As development tends to go when faced with the Historical Commission, the developer will probably return with a more appropriate design for its tower component. It's bound entirely by 13th Street and three smaller streets, so the only direction to add square footage is up. It's encouraging that developers are again considering the area north of the Convention Center for new hotels

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