Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Boyd Theater in Philadelphia

It’s always interesting to check out land use controversies from other cities across the United States. There’s an interesting controversy in Philadelphia going on right now concerning the Boyd Theater, located on Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. The theater opened on Christmas Day 1928 and is the last of the old art deco movie houses constructed in the early days of American moviemaking.

Currently it is closed. The Friends of the Boyd have a website with photographs which show the theater’s beauty in its heyday; currently the exterior is in pretty bad shape and I’m sure the interior is not much better. However, the photos of the theater from its gold days are well worth a look.

The current owner has suggested retention of the façade of the building while demolition of most of the rest of the structure to be replaced by an eight screen movie house. The Boyd is on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places (since 2008) so that the owner needs to convince the Philadelphia Historical Commission that there is an economic hardship sufficient to allow the demolition of the interior.

Take a look at the Plan Philly blog page for additional information, including the applicant’s documentation concerning the economic hardship. To put it simply, rehabilitation of the structure would cost over $40 million, and the various uses that might be available simply will not generate enough income to cover the kind of debt load.

There was a hearing before the Historic Commission’s Committee on Economic Hardship last Tuesday, January 28, but no decision was reached. It certainly is a difficult proposition: the building was and could “beautiful, but finding a new use for the old building is quite challenging.

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