And This Just In...
Round one in the fight for Front and Chestnut Streets, one of the last intact vestiges of the city's maritime past, went to the preservationists today. The hardship committee of the Historical Commission voted 2-1 to deny the Spears brothers' application to demolish three historic structures from the early 19th Century. (See post immediately below). The arguments - which went on for more than two hours! - centered mainly on how much it would cost to repair the rundown buildings. The owners claim the bill would top $1.5 million for a steel frame, but the committee was skeptical about the approach and estimate. Meanwhile, the city solicitor's office said it intends to pursue a "demolition by neglect" case against the Spears. Since they've only owned the building two years, it will be interesting to hear the city's arguments. Don't expect this battle to go away.
Meanwhile, at the Zoning Board of Adjustment, it was smooth sailing for the National Jewish Museum, planned for the southeast corner of 5th and Market Streets. Chairman David Auspitz pronounced the design by New York's Polshek Partnership "beautiful" and no one noticed the museum doesn't have a door facing Independence Mall (above). The board did add its voice to the chorus of complaints against Septa for failing to renovate its dowdy Fifth Street El station, with its double-wide staircases that occupy the better part of the corner. In addition to my concerns about the absence of a door on the mall, I find Polshek's 5th Street landscape plan pretty banal. It would simply cap one of the offending staircases with greenery. It's just another planter blocking the sidewalk.
The other news from the mall is that locals Kelly/Maiello beat out four other teams to win the commission for a memorial honoring the first American president's house and the slaves who were forced to live there. It was a nearly impossible assignment. But, given the complexities and rancor that has accompanies this patch of history, their memorial was easily the best of the five submissions, both in terms of content and design. Still, you have to wonder how those blank, brick columns, which represent the house's chimneys, are going to look to people approaching the mall from the west. They're meant to hold some of the video and audio equipment that will be incorporated into the memorial. In general, that corner is already pretty crammed up with stuff, so it's going to take some real finesse to make the memorial not look like kitsch.