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.