Wednesday, November 22, 2006

First the Youth Study Center. Now Family Court.

If there ever were a justification for building a juvenile prison on the elegant Ben Franklin Parkway, it was the proximity of the Family Court building on Logan Square. But now with the Youth Study Center destined (Janine Blackwell, permitting) to move to West Philadelphia, it comes as no surpise that court operation is planning to relocate too. The Daily News' Jill Porter suggests, and my sources confirm, that the court's operations will be consolidated on three upper floors of the former Strawbridge & Clothier store on Market Street. The federal General Services Administration already has floors 7 through 11. Family Court is supposed to take 4 through 6. That leaves just the lower three and the concourse levels up for grabs. According to very informed-sounding anonymous caller who left a message on my voicemail, Preit - which owns the Strawbridge building and the Gallery - has closed a deal with Boscov's, at least for 1 through 3, with the future of the concourse level unknown. The same anonymous caller also claimed that Sears is headed to the Gallery.

There will be lots of important details to resolve. Will participants in family court dramas crowd into the same Strawbridge elevators as GSA employees? Or will Preit attempt to create yet a third, segregated entrance to the building? What will happen to Strawbridge's Corinthian Room on the Sixth Floor(Photo courtesy of Howard B. Haas)? Will Boscov's be able to treat the first three floors with the respect they deserve?
Next question: Who will get control of the Family Court Building, a 1939 building by John T. Windrim that, along with the Free Library, is one half of Logan Square's Francophone duo? Will it become the world's most elegant condos? A museum location? A new way to realize the Free Library's expansion? A parking garage to serve the parkway's cultural institutions? (Attention: joke!) Let's hope for a smart civic use.

I've always found it mind-boggling that Windrim produced Family Court's neo-classical palace, as well as the equally stuffy Franklin Institute, after Howe and Lescaze had already designed the ground-breaking PSFS tower, America's first International Style skyscraper. The best things about the Family Court building are the stained glass windows, by Philadelphia's D'Ascenzo Studios, and a series of paintings on themes of family and childhood by nine Philadelphia artists, all produced under the Depression-era Public Works Administration. The architecture itself seems too caught up in its own importance. But the possibility that the courthouse could have a new, more hopeful, civic purpose is nice to chew on.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the YSC will not be going to west philly unless something changes soon. Right now they are planning to empty out the current building and shift those kids to an existing facility on N. 17th street until the real building is ready. Obviously Blackwell's delays are jeapardizing the schedule for the knock down of the YSC and moves had to be made. Once renovation is done at the 17th street building look for there to be a rush to demolish the YSC before Street leaves office. They are looking at other sites fot the permanent YSC, including a location in North Philly north of Brewerytown.

sj

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How bittersweet -- I've always hated that Family Court was in that prominent spot along the Parkway. But why is it being relocated to Market East?

For every great decision in Philadelphia, there are 30 infuriating ones. Market East should be a RETAIL zone, not a place where children go to be sentenced.

The S&C Building should contain a big tenant like (yuck) Boscovs, but the top floors should be a mall for artists --- they should have workshops and places where they can sell their jewelry, art, etc. It should be a hip pseudo mall of local artists and craftspeople.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This City cannot trust PREIT.

It is run by Ron Rubin who is the principal behind the horrendous Foxwoods casino that would bring GRIDLOCK to south columbus boulevard.

By Ron Rubin's pushing for Foxwoods, we now know that he cares not a wit for the betterment of Philadelphia.

Oh yeah, forgive me, he's going to take his investment in Foxwoods and give it all to charity through his Rubin Family Foundation. WHAT A JOKE!!!

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boscov's and Sears sound like excellent upgrades for Market East.

You seriously feel hopeless when you here decisions like the relocation of Family Court into Market East. Hopefully this decision is false or gets reversed.

Build a new facility for Family Court away from the convention center, away from the tourist, away from the shoppers. Family Court along with other social services and city administrative agencies is a dead zone except from M_F 9-5. Thats a key area that needs vibrancy, not dysfunctional families. This area needs to become a world class strip. Family Court is not the way to go here.

If this news is true the average suburban 6th grader has a higher IQ and more sense than the people running this city.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did I read that correctly....? Juvenile court is to be reloacted to Market East? Is Philadelphia intentially trying to lessen the appeal of Center City? I used to think that the city government is apparently a truly clueless bunch of philistines with not a wit of sense of long term planning for the betterment of Philadelphia. I have just downgraded my opinion.

8:36 AM  
Blogger melvin seligsohn said...

the library was built in 1928. psfs around 1930. the library and the court building were conceptually joined at the hip long before H & L along. Ironically, ysc, designed by Andrade,who taught with Lou Kahn atPenn, is one of the great modernist buildings in the city. It's a mess now, but as part of the city's heritage it's a shame it won't be salvaged as part of the new Barnes. wouldn't it be nice if the Academy of Natural Sciences could move into the court building.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Vince Dean said...

I like the idea of the building becoming a museum, posible the "civil war museum",thier collection is much too large and needs a space worthy of it. Thats what the parkway was designed for ! It breaks my heart that our once "TRUELY GREAT" deparment stores are all gone. It's sad that the midwestern/southern idealogue of reatail has won out ! At the very least, the Strawbridge and Cothier building is not being torn down.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not put the Barnes in the Family Court Building as it is being moved by the courts. Create a modern art Museum in the YSC if it a great building. Could you see Calders and other large sculptures in the space between it and the Parkway?

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that center city has NO department store at all, even Boscov's would be welcome. Who is fooled by the fake, cut-down "Macy's" in the Wanamaker building? Considering that it has only clothing and perfume, just like the rather lame Lord and Taylor it replaces, it seems to indicate a continued downgrading of center city retail. What happened to the other 80% of the stuff that Macy's offers in K of P - furniture, bedding, housewares, small electrics, kitchen, etc. etc.? It is as if the parent company is just waiting to dump the property and is not at all serious. Am I wrong in thinking this is a bad sign? A holiday season passing in the 5th largest city with no major retail presence?

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened is short, Wal-mart. The city needs to find something to excite those who still want to shop in center city, and can afford it. I remember when it was the highlight to take the train into center city and see the Wanamaker light show, have lunch in the Crystal Tea Room and ride the Mono-rail. The malls of America took away that wonder with the ease of shopping and the Wal-Mart's made it cheap. How can cities get that magic back?

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Market East and Chestnut from 7th-12th Streets is in such bad shape that it acts like a dam for tourists and conventioners.They come wandering out of the historic district or out of the convention center and they walk one block and its "ok kids we're out here", or lets head back to the hotel.

The sad part is that most tourists or conventioneers dont even know that Rittenhouse Square,Pine Street, and the Ben Franklin Parkway even exists.

Family Court at 8th + Market isn't going to solve this problem.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Vince Dean said...

I understand,through priveleged, informants, that Macy's(in the former Wanamaker building) will become an "anchor store" adding two more floors with housewares and furniture. As it is, Philadelphia's store is the largest per square footage, outside of Manhatten.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fabulous idea to put the Civil War museum in the Family Court building. After all, the memorial to our own Galusha Pennypacker, the hero of the battle of Fort Fisher, is out front.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Mr. Architect said...

The Youth Study Center, designed in 1953 by Carroll, Grisdale and Van Alen, is our most important mid-century building- beautifully proportioned and sited- classically scaled on its Parkway facade, and functionally articulated on its north. It has been badly treated by the city- a demolition by neglect- and all but forgotten by our local architects.
There have been many chances to find appropriate new uses- most poetic would have been the new location for the Please Touch Children's Museum- but alas, vision is lacking. Now it's fate is sealed- as the powers that be have a teardown approach- much easier to erect a "McMansion Barnes"- than to consider any possible reuse. As an aside- why is it OK to move the Barnes but not OK to sell the Gross Clinic?

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I like the idea of a modern art museuum (there is a small one on penns campus) or a transfere of the Natural Science Museuum to the family court buiding. If the later is done then the "old" natural science museuum could be refitted like the post office building in Washington dc to bring some much needed services for those visitng the parkway area. It would make the parkway a place to visit for a day, which might encourage even more tourist to stay another night in the city

12:27 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Let's hope that Council approves the 125 ft. height limitation for Logan Square - otherwise we might see a tower on top of the Family Court!

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re. the YSC, it was actually designed by Carroll, Grisdale, Van Alen. a much forgotten successful philly firm midcentury.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the information about Macy's center city expanding up correct? Anymore news on the vacant, dark Strawbridges? High end retail coming to the Girard Estate Site?

7:49 PM  

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