Friday, August 10, 2007

Blowing Up the Convention Center Neighborhood

Leave it to the Pennsylvania Convention Center to send out invitations to a demolition. Actually make that multiple demolitions. Starting Aug. 15 at 2 p.m., with Buck's Hardware on 13th Street, the center will begin demolishing, imploding or otherwise destroying all the structures in its expansion path, from 13th to Broad, and Arch to Race Streets. (with the exception of the worthies remaining on Broad Street). The evite, which went out last week, welcomes guests to a pre-demolition bash in Room 114 of the center.

Philadelphians have known for a long time that the demolitions were a foregone conclusion, but still their imminent approach comes as a shock. The condemned beauties include the Lithograph Building on 13th Street and the Gibson Building on Cherry Street. The center's expansion is being fueled with casino money, which is now starting to pour into the state treasury. One bad box begets another. You can read my views in my March 2 and April 13 columns and posts on the subject here.

Among the worst casualties will be the Race Street firehouse, a proud Italian Renaissance/Medieval Gothic castle designed by J. Molitor , the city's chief architect, which has stood guard for that part of Philadelphia since 1925. Decorated with gargoyles in firemen's suits and elaborately turreted, this was a historic building until it was decertified by the Historical Commission earlier this year. Let's hope convention officials have the wit to rescue the gargoyles who witnessed so many firemen race off to rescue Philadelphia's citizens.

16 Comments:

Blogger DJCarbon43 said...

Decertified by the Historical Commision? Nah uhhh! Say it isnt so Inga! They'd never do something as dastardly as that! Ohh...wait...nevermind...

These are the most corrupt, in the pocket of special interests, uninterested in preservation as an idea, flunkies I have ever seen.

I wish there was something I could do.

David Parrott

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All arguments aside, since the expansion has been a conclusion for some time now -- but I agree with Inga that the one treasure to fight for is the firehouse (at least the facade). Even within the confines of the Convention Center complex itself (murals toward the Market Street side of the train shed), those gargoyles have been already portrayed as one of the features of the neighborhood -- so it's a bit of a paradox that the center itself now puts them at risk. Is it asking too much for the facade to be preserved, perhaps providing a special entrace to some special facility within the center itself....has anyone asked if the architects themselves have even considered such as option?

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok...that rendering looks about as exciting as a suburban shopping mall. It's also hopelessly out of proportion to a city street. It has a looming, hulking presence that seems to overpower the sidewalk.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Arthur Petrella said...

This sounds like a whiney little liberal! What is your solution??? Every such situation requires a trade off. Are the buldings being displaced so important historicaly or aestheticly that we should not ecpand the CC or expand it in another direction. If only some of the hotels planned are built the result will be a significantly more robust and vital downtown than we have today . Phila. will still have an unmatched stock of 18th c buildings and one of the greatist collection of 19th c and early 20c buildings in the USA.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Davis said...

I'd rather expect the city will sell off the architectural remnants rather than save them.

While it's not great work - it has tremendous charm and interest - something tragically missing from the big boxes.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Scott B said...

Don't be so glum! The old Convention Center - remember what a beaut it was? It lasted maybe 30 years and then was mercifully blown away. (The old parts were handsome, the modern expansion was a crime.) But seriously, don't our city fathers and mothers get what a city is? A great city's architecture has a little staying power. If its architecture is the flavor of the day, added onto yesterday's flavor of the day, what have you got?

11:32 PM  
Anonymous b said...

i've got an idea, why don't they put one of the casinos directly across the street from the convention center? seriously, or better yet, put the casino inside the center. with all the out of town traffic right there it seems a miss to not take advantage of it. and frankly, any activity after 7pm around there is good for the neighborhood. at least then we could consolodate the damage bomb dropped by harrisburg to one location.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inga

I have nothing to say except bring on howard

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arthur Petrella said...
This sounds like a whiney little liberal! What is your solution??? Every such situation requires a trade off. Are the buldings being displaced so important historicaly or aestheticly that we should not ecpand the CC or expand it in another direction. If only some of the hotels planned are built the result will be a significantly more robust and vital downtown than we have today . Phila. will still have an unmatched stock of 18th c buildings and one of the greatist collection of 19th c and early 20c buildings in the USA.

I was going to let this one pass, but then thought 'no', that needs a response. So here it is...
Actually, Arthur, I'm more of the conservative persuasion. I was just so surprised to see that someone had distilled architectural distinctions down along politcal lines. I never really considered that people who cherish the classic old buildings that make a city's urban fabric must be of a particular political leaning. To me, the bottom line is what makes a city better. And while I certainly condone new development that ultimately lifts the boats of all the citizens through increased economic transactions, I also harbor strong feelings towards the achievement of that goal without the degradation of the existing historic urban fabric. Should Rome allow a Walgreens at the foot of the Colisium because it will result in an incremental increase in tax reveneue from the sales receipts? Same thing with Philadelphia. As you acknowledged, there is large amount of historic stock buildings. They should be considered 'rare;, not 'in the way'.

John J

9:05 PM  
Blogger Arthur Petrella said...

i don't think there is anything Italian Renaissance about the firehouse, romanesque and gothic with and arts and crafts feeling but not renaissance, Italian or otherwise.

it would be wonderful it they could preserve the firehouse but not at the expance of the CC

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The architecture of convention center on North Broad is completely wrong. Does not work with the context in terms of material or rhythm of the facade.

VERY SAD that the fire station on Race st. will be sacrificed for that boring pile of glass and concrete. Cant the Historic Commission in Phila do something to save that historic station? At least save the facade like they do to so many historic buildings here in DC.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Jayfar said...

"Cant the Historic Commission in Phila do something to save that historic station? "

The Philadelphia Historical Commission did what they do best - roll over and play dead.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

expansion of the Convention Center is a joke...........I have done 4 shows there.

The unions suck....

Sincerely,


Local Business Owner
Who will never do a show there again.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say we just get the pain over with and demo the whole friggin city.

This long draw out crap is too painfull for me.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to very respectfully submitt a few questions to this group.
1) To those who are accusing the Historical Commision of corruption, do you have any particular allegation against an idividual, or is that your personal opinion? It seems to me that the general opinion of the Historical Commision is pretty low, should those of us less informed consider the employees corrupt? It would be nice to have some supporting facts so I might draw my own conclusions.

2) To those of you who believe that specific buildings should, or must be saved. At what price? Should saving those buildings hold up the redevlopment of a depressed area of Center City and reject thousands of jobs for Philadelphia families? Have those of you researched the compromises and negotiations that resulted in those 11 buildings being slated for demolition?

3) Before this proposal for the expansion, please describe the physical charachter of the area the new convention center will sit on. Have you compared crime stats to those of other areas of center city? How about the amount of private sector investment, pre and post expansion (projections)? How about tax revnue that could help expand the Center City District North to Spring Garden and above? Do you feel these are negatives for the city?

4) To those who support demolition in the name of progress, where does it end? Aside from cost constraints, can't Philadelphia leverage its new desirablitiy to force the preservation of historic facades at least? If we knock down our old buildings, we are knocking down what makes Philadelhia the special city that it is. Our history is our greatest treasure, it is the fabric that connects us all in that unique Philadelphia way that I cant describe but know that I feel it.

I am not stating my opinion, just looking for some sort of evidence that these comments have integrity.

Sincerely for the best Philadelphia!

1:24 AM  
Blogger Kevin Derrick said...

Can anyone shed some light on which arch/design firm is in charge of the expansion?

7:52 AM  

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