When Neighbors “Architect Up”


"Neighbors objected to this design for Pearl Properties' development of the site of the Boyd Theater." | Rendering: Elmer Architecture

“Neighbors objected to this design for Pearl Properties’ development of the site of the Boyd Theater.” | Rendering: Elmer Architecture

About the author

Stephen Currall recently received his BA in history from Arcadia University. Before beginning doctoral studies, he is pursuing his interest in local history, specifically just how Philadelphians engage their vibrant past. Besides skimming through 18th century letters, Steve is also interested in music and travel.

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  1. The neighbors are wrong and the city is wrong, too as this is a by right project. The city is holding on the permit to build and has forced the developer to get his tower approved by the Historical Commission which is not required at all as their status is confined exclusively to the Boyd facade. During the meeting, the developer withdrew his proposal for the tower to negotiate with the neighbors (design already revised for both the adjacent building to the Boyd, the Boyd façade and the tower) and all approved by the Historical Commission with the exception of the withdrawn tower proposal design. Now the neighbors think they can architect draw the height of the tower BELOW 314 feet without knowing that THIS IS NOT THE CASE AS THIS IS A BUILD BY RIGHT PROJECT! If those geniuses think they can “approve” the design as long as it was built BELOW 314 feet, they will be in for a rude surprise. How hypocritical are those neighbors, many who live in towers in Rittenhouse Square and in other housing in the area.

    A macho James Caan type would demand the permits be released and build the project as listed under build by right. Ditto would a macho mayor do by simply ordering the permits released by L and I. Why be nice to people who do not care for you?

  2. I must respectfully disagree – as I understand it, review and approval of the new building is totally within the Historical Commission’s purview. Both the Pace building at 1900 Chestnut and the Boyd (1908 Chestnut) are individually listed historic resources. The current developer combined them, along with 1902-06 Chestnut, into one property to achieve zoning by rights. But they are still demolishing an historic building for this project (the Boyd), and new buildings put on the footprint of a demolished historic building are still subject to review and approval by the Historical Commission.

    • Only to the facades, not to the building footprint. The Boyd façade is historically protected, but not the theater which is SLOWLY being torn down, per the city as demo contractors would have long finished the job a while ago. City wants to placate the NIMBYS.

      Given this novel arrangement, how long will be before the NIMBYs start quarreling with the drawings of their appointed architect? Should this collapse into a bitter chaos, Pearl will be justified in demanding the release of the by right building permit. And will the city release the permit, given Darrell Clarke’s hold?

      That is why there is mediocrity and low rises built in the area – NIMBYs run amok over all new plans proposed. Pearl may be trying to stay in the game by giving the neighbors a chance before pulling in the lawyers to sue. Others would have sued and then bailed out once the city pays a settlement.

      City lives in a fantasy world that does not meet reality.

    • Once a historical building has been demolished, it is no longer on the historical record as the title must be clean before the new owner assumes site. Were this stipulation not in effect, who would want to buy a property encumbered by the control of the Historical Commission which only gave permission to demolish the Boyd facility but allowed it to happen once assured the Boyd façade would be preserved. Thus, their jurisdiction only applies to the façade of the Boyd and Pace buildings and not to the building sites themselves.

      A novel approach by Pearl to let the neighborhood NIMBYs participate in the design of the tower but how long will it before NIMBYs fight with each other on what should be allowed and what should not be allowed? I would not be too surprised if the group ends up splintered and unable to come to a cohesive agreement on anything. The city is wrong in holding up the permit per Darrell Clarke’s hold as NIMBYs live in a fantasy world of their own creation, have money to burn with lawyers in court and want to get their way all the time. Pearl may be trying to stay in the game as others would have sued and wasted years burning money in order to get a settlement from the city to leave the site. It may be good psychology to get the NIMBYs involved in the decision making to see what is feasible and what is not feasible to ensure smooth transition to construction but will construction happen, given the kind of people living in the area?

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