Thursday, March 13, 2008

Preservation Postscript

A charming historic building goes down in Philadelphia - as the poor Philadelphia Life Insurance Co. headquarters did last month - and eventually someone in Harrisburg hears about it. In this case, it was Sen. Gib Armstrong (R-Lancaster), the chair of the budget committee.

During a routine budget hearing, Armstrong took the opportunity to question the head of the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, Barbara Franco ,about why her agency sat on the sidelines while the Department of General Services carried out a classic bait and switch. You can watch the filmed testimony and hear it all for yourself. (Armstrong raises the issue in the first five minutes, so you don't have to stay for the whole hour.)

In case you've forgotten the sorry tale, the state historical commission negotiated a landmark deal in 2004 with the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The center agreed to retain those two charming little buildings - including a famous addition by architect Romaldo Giurgola - in exchange for permission to demolish several more inconveniently located historic buildings. Only one problem: DGS, which is building the center, says it didn't make the deal. Ergo, it could do whatever it wanted. Which was to let the wrecking ball swing away.

Armstrong raises a very good question: Why doesn't the state historical commission have greater powers to enforce its rulings? It's time people in Harrisburg started looking for an answer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the video.
This was indeed a classic bait and switch. It wasn't the fault of the PHMC. As mayor & governor, Ed Rendell has never understood the value of historic preservation! Other cities & states understand, but Ed doesn't.

This was outrageous, because it was a written agreement that preservationists relied on.

These buildings should not have been lost. The legislator on the videotape said Lancaster went to great expense to incorporate historic buildings into their convention center- and Philadelphia should have done the same, in accordance with the agreement. Shame on the Commonwealth. Shame on Governor Rendell.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't the preservation alliance hold some sway in these matters, don't they have attorneys to argue these cases for them? Who at the preservation alliance chooses their counsel and exactly who did they choose and how successful has this counsel been? You can't leave these arguements solely to the architects and preservationists, as they get too emotional. However, looking at the successes and failures of the preservation alliance one would think they would hire more competent counsel.

10:27 PM  

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