Monday, December 15, 2008

Saving the Boyd Theater, Part II

This will be a big week in the life of Chestnut's Street's Boyd Theater. Having narrowly escaped a threatened demolition, the theater is now being used as the means to leverage a glamorous new hotel on Sansom Street that will operate under the Kimpton's Monaco flag. The project's developer, Hal Wheeler, will be making stops at the Planning Commission Tuesday (1 p.m.) and the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Wednesday to seek the city's blessing for the curving, 320-foot hotel tower. I discussed the project in last week's column.

There's a lot to like about the design, by Martinez + Johnson Architects, who are known for their theater restorations. They did a huge amount of research on the theater when they were employed by Live Nation, which had planned to convert the movie house to a venue for Broadway-style shows. They even uncovered some decoration that had been masked by previous renovations. When developer Hal Wheeler agreed recently to buy the building and build the hotel, he wisely took on the same architects. Their beautifully detailed renovation drawings promise good things for the neglected theater. You can read some of the recent saga here and here in my columns, or go to the Friends of the Boyd website

Given the frozen state of real estate, you can't help but wonder how the developer expects to pull off this $130 million project. But the Boyd project actually has more going for it financially that some other recently proposed designs (ie. ACC). For starters, the financial world is likely to look more kindly on hotel projects because of the anticipated need for more guest rooms after the expanded convention center is finished in 2011. Wheeler's strategy for financing the project also taps into a variety of money pots. He plans to have the project qualify for federal historic tax credits. More immediately, he is applying for a $12 million grant from a state fund devoted to cultural projects. He's looking for additional federal tax credits for projects in blighted areas, which, believe it not, includes Center City. All in all, Wheeler says he feels confident that he can start construction in late 2009. He's even considering opening the theater first, before the hotel tower is completed.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Howard B. Haas said...

As Inga Saffron says, Friends of the Boyd, www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org has more information on our website. We also send a free Weekly Update, which you can sign up for at our website. This is a great project.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Baron Zlatkovsky said...

I have worked to save the Boyd theater from the very beginning, but I want it saved intact, as a theater, and not as part of a dubious project that will actually prevent it from being fully operational as a theater. It may serve the project if completed, but it will not serve the community nearly as well. If there are so many money pots available to dip into, why do we need the developer to do it?
It is too tall, will shadow all the apartments on Chestnut Street, and as it seems unlikely to ever be completed, we need to find another, simpler way to renovate the theater.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Saul Davis, Performing Arts Traditions said...

I have a proposal that might be viable. The William Penn Foundation has been looking for sites for artist space in Philadelphia and ArtSpace USA has been doing building conversions across the country. I propose that they join in purchasing the Boyd and adjacent land, use the public money Wheeler will ask for to pay for renovation, the Foundation can pay for construction of artist space on the vacant lands, not to mention the existing buildings across Sansom Street, and the theater will resume operation as a theater/rental facility.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Baron Zlatkovsky said...

One more thought. We must remember that there is yet another luxury hotel project proposed right across narrow Sansom Street from this one. The street will be a narrow lane between two looming hotels. Are there enough patrons to support two more luxury hotels in this area?

2:09 PM  
Blogger someone who knows said...

Just so you know, the hotel project proposed for right across narrow Sansom Street is dead in the water.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Davis said...

This is a very promising project and a promising design.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Kaytie said...

Hey there, Inga. Just wanted to let you know that I gave you a shout out in my latest blog post. Love the stuff that you do!
http://blogs.phillyburbs.com/blog.php/?p=37211&cat=285#comments

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a lame knock off of Arquitectonica's Westin hotel in NYC... Please Inga....

7:13 PM  

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