Pa. History Exec:Demolitions Unauthorized
The chorus of outrage over the Saturday-before-Christmas demolition attempt on the Broad Street Two continues to grow. Barbara Franco, the director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, has sent a withering letter to the Department of General Services, condemning its assault on a pair of historic buildings that were supposed to be incorporated into the Convention Center's new Broad Street facade.
The department, which is overseeing the construction of the expanded center, was prevented from completing the legally questionable demolition on Monday after the Preservation Alliance secured an injunction from Commonwealth Court. Now, Franco, who has tended to be fairly cautious in her statements, lets loose in a Dec. 26 letter to DGS' acting head, Elizabeth O'Reilly. The Inquirer's editorial page also urged Gov. Rendell to stand by a 2004 agreement by the state to preserve those structures . All those righteous claims that the deal was non-binding are starting look pretty disingenuous.
Franco's letter should help boost the Alliance's case Jan. 8 when it goes to court to ask for a permanent halt to demolition. In the three-page document, Franco criticizes DGS for "abruptly terminating consultations" with her agency, taking "pre-emptive action to demolish" the former headquarters of the Philadelphia Life Insurance Co., and "failing to do due diligence." Franco concludes that "the preponderance of the engineering evidence clearly shows it is feasible to save the building facades."
Meanwhile, in a small bit of irony, the Convention Center just released an update rendering of its new facade, (above), done in a style that might be called "airport modern." This version has a few more details to keep the new wall from killing us with boredom. And significantly, it still includes the facades of the buildings that the center and itshenchmen tried to tear down last weekend. Love to hear that parsed by the DGS.