Philadelphia’s Boyd plan not worthy of the block

Philadelphia's Boyd plan not worthy of the block
A rendering shows Eimer Architecture’s design for the new tower on the site of the old Boyd Theatre.

Ever since Pearl Properties quietly scooped up the doomed Boyd Theatre on Chestnut Street in October, Philadelphia has been left to guess its intentions. Would Pearl install a modern movie house behind the facade, as the city was promised during a financial-hardship hearing at the Historical Commission? Would the company replace the theater with a retro, 1920s-style apartment tower? Even as backhoes were gnawing all spring at the historic art deco auditorium, Pearl remained mum.

Now, in preparation for a design review Tuesday at the Historical Commission, Pearl has finally revealed its hand.

A filing made public Wednesday shows that Pearl plans to replace the Boyd’s exuberant, art deco auditorium – a triumph of Hollywood’s golden age – with a generic, 341-foot-tall apartment tower wrapped in red, white, and gray metal panels. In addition, a bland, three-story commercial building will be wedged between the Boyd’s old marquee facade and the limestone building that occupies the corner of 19th and Chestnut.

It would be an understatement to say that Pearl’s design is no gem. A charmless, bulky stack of rentable units, it does no justice to the memory of the Boyd or, for that matter, to the lively commercial architecture that lines this stretch of Chestnut Street. []


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