Agreement To Govern Dismantling Of Boyd Auditorium


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

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

Friends of the Boyd, the advocacy group that fought, and has now ultimately lost, a long battle to preserve the Art Deco Boyd Theater auditorium, and the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, have signed a multi-faceted agreement with the owners and developers of the theater that will partially preserve certain architectural elements on and off site. Last month, the Philadelphia Historical Commission ruled to grant a hardship exemption to the owners of the theater, Live Nation, which would have allowed them to demolish the entire theater. In signing the agreement, the groups signify they won’t appeal the ruling; the agreement also turns the stated intent of the theater’s new owner, developer Neal Rodin, and the theater chain iPic, to preserve the building’s facade into a legally binding easement. “Frankly, without the existence of the rest of the Boyd, an easement was not a goal of Friends of the Boyd,” said its volunteer president, Howard Haas, by email. But, he said, since by right the theater owner could demolish the unprotected interior of the theater–and has already begun to do so–there was no sense in the appeal.

“Friends of the Boyd and the Preservation Alliance vigorously opposed the issuance of a permit to allow the demolition of most of the Boyd Theatre. We’re not endorsing the destruction of Center City’s last movie palace, nor are we endorsing the iPiC that will rise in its place. What we are doing is the best we can do now, especially in working towards the reuse of lavish Jazz Age interior features, the great works of a long gone generation of craftspeople,” said Haas.

Among those features are nine two-story tall mirrors, some of which will be properly refurbished and installed on site. The architectural elements that aren’t to be used by iPic will be properly documented and donated to organizations and institutions designated by Friends of the Boyd and the Preservation Alliance. Additionally, Friends of the Boyd will work with iPic on interpretive displays that tell the Boyd history.

Haas said that it was now time to work toward reforming the preservation system that has led to the city losing its last downtown movie palace, and which in recent years has been toothless in protecting other notable buildings now gone.

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. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.


  1. What an absolute disgrace. Seriously, demolish it all the way already.

    More importantly, all involved need to stop trying to pretend they’re doing anything good and be honest and real about what they are doing. I’m sick of hearing how “the Boyd will be preserved” or “the Boyd is a blight”. Ger real. Have some courage for once.

  2. Sounds like the city brokered a settlement between all parties as the wildcard was the unpredictable nature of BLIR in issuing a hold against the project which could drag on for a year and possibly longer, thus killing the deal for theaters behind the facade of the Boyd. I say this because interior demolition was the only thing permitted the contractors by L and I and interior demolition can be sped up or slowed down at will at any time. Preservation of choice artifacts inside the Boyd an amazing coincidence? No, as an L and I inspector can tell demo crews where they can work and where they cannot work pending receiving of supervisory concurrence and bringing up safety reviews time and time again as the cause of this supervisory overreach. If that is true, no accident that it happened. Haas and his group knew well they had a short time frame to agree otherwise all they wanted preserved would be demolished in short nature.

    Haas knew he never owned the Boyd yet he acted as if it was his property when it was not. The developer wisely held off suing Haas and his group yet it push off the start of construction until litigation was settled in court. Yet Haas and his group never really understood that the viable way of preserving historic buildings is to find a viable economic use for them where they could reap economic gains in the successful utilization of the building. That is the only way to ensure a historic building can stand the test of time otherwise it will be left fallow to decay under the elements.

    Artifacts were preserved for display at the new theater complex or at a museum if they so desire to receive and display. If there is one thing we must learn, that is that we do not own the property we desire to see preserved and we must work with those who own the property to see that it is properly preserved with an good economic justification. Unless one wants to spend his or her own money to acquire the property from the owner if he or she is so willing to sell to you and then you spend more money to preserve it, thus we do not have the right to infringe upon others who own the property.

  3. We’re done printing comments that simply attack other readers personally or attempt to label or define who they are. Present your ideas, argue for something, but no one cares to read arguments between people. We’re all interested in the future of Philadelphia, even when we differ for reasons of ideology or perspective: legitimate differences. Bring facts, check what you write, and make sure what you’re saying makes sense. –ed.

  4. The City didn’t broker anything! And, Friends of the Boyd actually had a commitment of funds to purchase the Boyd so we could have become the owners.

    • No point in letting facts get in the way of things.

    • This whole situation is a disgrace. Haas had 12 years — 12 years! — to find funding to preserve this once-great theater. Plans were set forth, plans fell apart and the building sank into disrepair, with a Gap Outlet (!) the final nail in the coffin.

      What Hass and his “friends” would never admit — even in defeat — was that the never had any money and never would find any money for one plain and simple reason: The ECONOMICS of “Saving the Boyd” did not make any logical sense.

      That said, watch for opening day, 2015, when Haas is invited to the Grand Opening and stands there with the iPic brass so that he can get his picture in the paper and tell his circle of “Friends” how he helped save the Boyd… Façade.

      Welcome iPic! Now let’s put on a show!

      • Yeah, you keep trying to push that narrative, and I’ll continue to push right back. Apparently the above comment somehow isn’t doing nothing but insulting or disparaging another person or group?

  5. I’m really sick of the “good enough for Philly” types who have been the ones dominating the conversation on every local topic these past 5 years or so.

    This situation has become far too commonplace. Philadelphia and its metro is special, and unique, and with each passing year it becomes increasingly less so. So many people do everything they can to turn Philadelphia into something it’s not, rather than improving on what it actually is and what makes it great. They continue to downgrade the city and knock it down peg after peg, and where is the outcry?

    Philadelphia was a city of tons of beautiful and historic churches, so what did people do? They got rid of the majority of them. It was and is a city of amazing, historic rowhomes, so what have people done? Demolished or ruined countless rowhomes throughout the city as if it’s nothing, plenty of which were historic. Philadelphia had one remaining movie palace, so what did they do? Demolished it and pretended that they were “restoring” it when in reality there’s nothing of value being restored. Those beautiful old schools? Demolished. The old mills throughout the metro and other historic sites? Demolished or in disrepair. Countless historic aspects of the city and metro have been demolished with no care whatsoever, including digging up old sidewalks or altering them, demolishing rare rowhomes or other buildings, altering historic creek or river sites if not destroying them altogether. Last but not least, destroying sites like the Philadelphia International Records building to build a condo tower that doesn’t even have the tower portion at the corner of Broad St.

    There’s a reason the city is increasingly compared to places that either don’t have much history or uniqueness or that get rid of theirs. Progress? I don’t think so.

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