Permit In Place to Demolish Boyd Theater Interior–UPDATED

 

The Boyd, as of this morning, with building and zoning permits for demolition affixed | Photo: Bradley Maule

The Boyd, as of this morning, with building and zoning permits for demolition affixed | Photo: Bradley Maule

Demolition of the interior of the Boyd Theater, including its graceful Art Deco auditorium, could begin this week. A Licenses & Inspection permit allowing owner Clear Channel Entertainment to demolish “non-load bearing walls and ceiling only” was posted on the building over the weekend.

The Boyd Theater's Art Deco auditorium | Photo: Chandra Lampreich

The Boyd Theater’s Art Deco auditorium | Photo: Chandra Lampreich

Gutting the interior would be a catastrophic blow to advocates of the theater, who are planning to appeal Friday’s Historical Commission ruling allowing iPic-Gold Class Entertainment to install eight screens and an Italian restaurant in the building. Howard Haas, president of Friends of the Boyd, said the Historical Commission’s ruling can’t be appealed to the L&I Review Board until it’s received in the mail, a process that could take a week.

The Historical Commission’s decision granting financial hardship–and any appeals–only apply to the exterior walls of the theater, which are protected by being on the City’s Historic Register. The interior of the building is not protected, so no special permission is needed for Clear Channel Entertainment to move forward with demolition.

Preservation Alliance advocacy director Ben Leech said that he hasn’t been able to find out what specifically the owners plan to demolish, but that he’s very concerned that they will rip out the interior decoration.

“If you wanted to dissuade anyone from a long appeal you would remove the interior, which is the part people care about, especially given the timing, when they know an appeal might be forthcoming,” said Leech.

To Haas, the demolition is a cynical ploy meant to short circuit what could be a lengthy appeals process. “They do have a legal right [to demolish],” said Haas. “But it has only one purpose and that is scorched earth. We will appeal regardless.”

IPic’s attorney, Matthew McClure of Ballard Spahr, declined to comment on the demolition permit.

The firm Pepper Environmental has been hired to do the demolition work, at an estimated cost of $100,000. When asked today by a Hidden City Daily reporter outside the Boyd this morning if demolition would begin today, two contractors didn’t respond, walked inside and closed the door behind them.

“Interior demolition of non load bearing walls and ceiling only.”

“Interior demolition of non load bearing walls and ceiling only.”

“For the partial demolition of an existing attached structure and for the erection of an addition at the rear of the structure.”

“For the partial demolition of an existing attached structure and for the erection of an addition at the rear of the structure.”

Peter Woodall and Bradley Maule contributed reporting to this story.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. His essays and book reviews appear in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, The Millions, and Fanzine.



9 Comments


  1. This is an outrageous display of poor character. The appeal will be successful as the Historical Commission process and hearing were so incredibly flawed. But what will we be left with? Perhaps its not too late. Call the Mayor’s Office 215 686 2181 to demand that the demolition be stopped before its too late.

    Sadly, it seems that this will be our Penn Station. Thus the questions become:

    How do we leverage this loss to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
    How do we reform the hardship process?
    How do we better protect historic interiors?

    Thanks to the Boyd, it is now legal to designate the interiors, but far too few have been nominated. Let’s make sure that other significant spaces don’t meet the same fate.

  2. This is a very sad outcome, but not unexpected. The fight to save the Boyd has been going on for years and those to tried to save it have been consistently unable to get the funding or to engage a developer to save this historic treasure. It’s hard to believe that having a gem of an old movie palace in Center City would not be a great asset both culturally and economically — but apparently that’s just not the case.

    A very uinfortunate state of affairs.

    • The Friends of the Boyd were able to recently get the funding, but the Historic Commission decided that the offer didn’t constitute proof that the building could be sold or reused (that baffling logic is the crux of the pending appeal).

      For more photos of the Boyd’s amazing interior, see here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rgb/sets/72157642402329565/

      • Well the logic is that you can dress it up, but if you can’t then make it an economically viable theater or a property you can sell at a profit, it simply becomes a failed effort with delinquent taxes.

        I am all for saving The Boyd, but you have to both restore it and make it a viable, self-sustaining entity of some sort in order to truly save it. I had assumed that the funding was for purchase, and perhaps restoration … which only gets you part of the way there (but perhaps I’m wrong?)

  3. Philadelphia is Hopeless

    So they are going demo that amazingly gorgeous interior but save that turd of an exterior? Sounds about right per Philadelphia.

  4. The demolition permit makes no mention of whether any asbestos has been adequately abated. I know that the fabulous fire curtain is made from asbestos. They should have had to retain an environmental company to complete abatement prior to any interior demolition.

  5. Another 1920-era Boyd Theater yet lives … http://www.theboyd.com/about-boyd/

  6. Demolition has indeed begun. It will not be a surprise if Friends of the Boyd finally lands an empty shell of a building. But a fantastic interior could be created for it, so it is still worth the fighting. But responsibility for this abysmal situation must be squarely laid with the Democratic Party, the Mayor and the Historical Omission. We must see an entirely new commission and committee members in place, and blame must be laid openly on Mayors Nutter and Rendell. Nor should Sharon Pinkenson should not remain the angelic visitation she pretends to be. National publicity will hold them up to their richly deserved shame. As for the developers, well, they are merely being the criminally successful raptors that they are. This is only the beginning of the battles to come over a rebuilding Philadelphia of the future.

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