Plans (Finally) Revealed for Boyd Theatre Project, 19th and Chestnut

Pearl Properties will present their redevelopment plans to the Historical Commission on Tuesday.

Boyd Theatre Philadelphia

A 27-story apartment tower is planned to replace the auditorium at the Boyd Theatre. | Photo: Jeff Fusco

It’s been an interesting week. As you know, we were live at the Allan Domb election party on Tuesday and bumped into the ever-present HughE Dillon. The plugged-in paparazzo told us that a new plan for the Boyd Theatre was about to be released. This one didn’t include a tower that took up the entire site at 19th and Chestnut. Documents recently added on the Historical Commission’s website prove that much of HughE’s info about a revamped plan was indeed correct.

Chestnut Square Associates L.P., an affiliate of Pearl Properties, is scheduled to meet the commission on Tuesday and present their plans for a drastically different interpretation of their clutch of property that includes 1900-1906 Chestnut, 1910 Chestnut, 1912 Chestnut, 110 South 19th and 112 South 19th Street. Attorneys for the project submitted the application (.pdf) to the commission last week. The grand 2,30o-seat auditorium at the 1920’s movie theater stretches back to Sansom Street and has been under demolition since March.

The new plans | Rendering: Eimer Architecture, Pearl Properties

The new plans | Rendering: Eimer Architecture, Pearl Properties

Pearl’s earlier plans predated the purchase of the Boyd property in October and called for an all encompassing 26-story tower on the corner of 19th and Chestnut.

That idea has been scrapped in favor of a multi-building, mixed-use proposal that retains the historic building at 1900 Chestnut Street “with minimal alterations.” A new three-story retail space would rise on the properties squeezed between the corner and the Boyd, which would become a restaurant space fronting Chestnut Street. The auditorium space behind it would make way for a 27-story glass and metal clad apartment tower that would rise to 341-feet at its apex. Site plans show that the entrance to the tower will be on 19th Street and the Sansom Street side will have a retail space on the ground floor (.pdf). An entrance to the underground parking garage will be accessed via 20th Street.

Hidden City’s Bradley Maule reports the old (and out of place) Sam Eric marquee will be removed and “the Boyd’s will be restored.” Earlier reports indicated that the entire ornate vesituble would be saved and repurposed. Maule says that has changed as well. “Notably, the ornamental art deco vestibule to Sansom Street, one section that was to have been preserved, will be replaced by a loading dock.”

In April, Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger was quoted in a piece in The Inquirer saying: “There are a couple of surprises that people will find really enjoyable … Some nice touches that will add to the strength of the whole proposal.” This is new plan is certainly surprising. Calls to both Eimer Architecture and Pearl Properties were not immediately returned.

Inga Saffron weighs in on the new development and its new look:

Pearl’s 27-story tower, which will back onto Sansom Street, is a plain rectangular slab that has been broken up by baylike setbacks at the corners, and what look like scrims and inset windows on the east-facing facade. Based on drawings prepared by Eimer Architecture, it appears that structure will be wrapped up with metal panels, now the default on developer-built apartment buildings. That isn’t architecture; it’s a colorful form of weatherproofing.

It will be interesting to see what the Historical Commission says about the updated plan, who, along with the Civic Design Review board, “has the power to demand that Pearl come up with a better design,” says Saffron.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated once more information becomes available.

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