Thursday, May 21, 2015

An Ugly New Boyd Tower May Cometh

With the tragic loss of Philadelphia's last movie palace, the Boyd Theater on Chestnut Street, many were looking to Pearl Property's graceful rendering of an Art Deco tower flanking the corner as a concession. 

Though only one rendering ever existed, the tower's handsome potential echoes an L.A. Noir embodiment that would have complement both the Boyd's lobby and its eastern neighbor. 

So what happened?

That question can't be asked enough when it comes to the Boyd's fight, loss, and demolition. And unfortunately, that uncertainty continues even after the Boyd's auditorium is nearly gone.

Eimer Architecture, a firm that has never produced a building, let alone a high-rise for an address like Rittenhouse Square, has released a rendering that will be reviewed by the Historical Commission next week. 

Inga Saffron had some choice words to say about it and, ever the critic, she couldn't be more correct. Like so many other high-rises, even townhouses, throughout Center City and University City, the tower's metal panels are the go-to decision for budget builders. They're a cheap way to make a simple building stand out. 

But this is Rittenhouse-****ing-Square. Budget builders have no business here. It's bad enough when an architect puts a pig in a prom dress in New Kensington, but at 19th and Chestnut, it's not even economically necessary. Behind the revered Boyd, it's downright unethical. 

Unfortunately there is a growing part of me that simply wants to move on. We lost the war for the Boyd, and there are worthy battles elsewhere. Eimer Architecture's building is uninteresting and flat, but it's now in the hands of the Historical Commission. 

There are still curiosities, though. Namely, why did Pearl abandon its Art Deco tower, and why did it move the tower to Sansom Street? The answer to the latter is likely financial. For the project to have a low-rise retail component, Chestnut Street gets much more foot traffic. Still, it's irresponsible to the neighborhood and to the streets, and will likely leave quaint Sansom with a garage door and a blank wall. 

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