Well, the battle for the Boyd has been an insane, up and down battle, with two possible saves, and one really slippery downward slope that we are on now. We have a developer called Neil Rodin who wants to buy the building, then lease it to iPic theaters. Seems like a great deal right, I mean a theater for a theater. No brainer. Right, it really is a perfect plan, except one small thing, they have no interest in saving the historic theater. They are just going to bulldoze it, rebuild the footprint of the building, then put in 8 mini theaters in. Their reasoning is that it would not be financially viable as a theater anymore. Oh yeah, they did all their research; they hired experts to say exactly what they wanted them to say. So, you want to buy a 24 dollar ticket to a see Top Gun 2, right. I mean, who would not want to spend that much for a movie. Reserved seating too, that worked so good at the Bridge Cinema that they discontinued it years ago. But here’s where the real heart of the plan comes in, you see, it really does not matter if it succeeds or not to the developer Rodin, because what he really wants is the land. He specializes in building Condo Towers, and this is prime real-estate, and at rock bottom prices. So if iPic fails, which it will most likely do, then no one is going to fight to save a suburban style movie theater, so then he could build what ever he wants to build there, which will be a high rise building. That my friends, is how money is made. Sneaky I know.
A victimless crime, well, unless you count all the citizens of Philadelphia, and even the city itself. Shes a beautiful city, with a history that has amazed and thrilled me for over 18 years now. There are alleys here you can walk down, close your eyes, and remember the days that good Ole Ben Franklin would debate with his fellow revolutionaries. West Philadelphia has one of the largest collections of Victorian Homes in America, bringing back the glamour of the beginning of the 19th century. Lets not forget City Hall, my favorite building in the city. At one point, there was talk of destroying this building also. My point here is that we are destroying the heritage and culture of Philadelphia. The very things that make the city unique are being destroyed at a rate that is astounding.
There is a church called St. Bonaventure that was built in 1906 in North Philadelphia. It cost the city 972,000 dollars to destroy this church, but it would have only cost 77000 dollars to stabilize it. The contractors get all salvage rights to anything they take. Can some one please tell me what is wrong with this.
Now the Boyd is next, or so the developers are planning. I have been to numerous meetings at the Historic Commission, listened to iPics lawyer go on for hours, about how there is no possible reuse for the Boyd, that this is, in fact, saving the theater. The first meeting started at 9 and went on to 1 or so, and the only people who got to speak were in fact the ones trying to destroy the Theater. When it came time for preservationist to talk, it was determined to late in the day, postponed.
Between the first and second Historic Commission meetings, an amazing thing happened. The Friends of the Boyd found a Philanthropist willing to buy the theater. After more than a decade of fighting, Superman had finally arrived to save the day. How can a demolition be approved because of Financial Hardship when there is actually someone who is willing to buy the building and restore it. Seems to me like a no brainer.
The next meeting their lawyer was allowed to talk for an hour again, then we were given a bit of time to talk ourselves. The audience was filled with supporters wearing Friends of the Boyd t-shirts and hosting placards. The amount of time allocated to supporters was a third of what they got, and when people actually applauded some of the experts trying to save the building, the Chair of the Commission shut us down.
One of the saddest things is some of the neighbors are upset at us for trying to save the building, they claim that rats have taken over, and homeless squatters, that it is destroying their neighborhood. But we have actually hired a guard to protect the building, and we don’t even own it. Live Nation owns the theater, and has done nothing to upkeep it or clean it up. As far as rats, walk anywhere in Center City and you will find rats, especially at the backs of restaurants, near their dumpsters. There’s no food in the Boyd, so thus, no reason for rats to live there. Plus, again, its Live Nations responsibility.
So in the end, the commission sets it up for a vote. Of the members of the commission, one guy looks so bored he’s practically sleeping. Right away one member forwards a motion for demolition. No hesitation there. Only one member seems hesitant about it. She felt it would be wrong to tear the theater down when there is a buyer. Another member stated that it felt like a funeral, but a decision had to be made. Bam, she seconds the motion. The vote goes three for demolition, two abstain. Meeting over.
The decision was made before any of this circus even began. Most of the Commission are developers, or have worked for developers. Seems a little bit like the fox protecting the chicken coop to me. This group of Commissioners were brought into office by Ed Rendell, not the best preservationist, but certainly pro-development. I heard since they have been in office they have turned down one Demolition permit due to Financial Hardship, just one.
Seems kind of strange considering that the Historic Commissions job is to protect the architectural heritage of Philadelphia. What are they really protecting if they allow any developer to walk in and tear down what ever they want to. It’s pretty easy to say there is no way to make money unless you destroy something. Financial hardship.
So today is a really big day, one that we hope turns out well. I hope I am wrong, I hope that this decision was not made behind the famous Fire Curtains of the Boyd Theater. I hope that the Commission really does want to protect Phildelphia’s landmarks, and save the character of the city. I really hope that it wont be a funeral tomorrow for another Philadelphia Landmark. That’s why its so important to keep on fighting. There are some things that are just worth saving, and the Boyd Theater is one.
SAVE THE BOYD