By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Historical Commission has approved a developer’s ‘hardship’ request to tear down most of the interior of the historic Boyd Theater, near 19th and Chestnut Streets, to redevelop it.
After lengthy testimony from lawyers, developers, architects, engineers, consultants – and preservationists – the Historical Commission voted 9-1 – with one abstention – to approve the financial hardship application.
Developer Neal Rodin plans to gut the auditorium of the movie palace, built in 1928, and replace the art deco interior with an eight-screen multiplex and high dining restaurant. But the Chestnut Street facade, now boarded up and dilapidated, would be restored.
“We are saving the Boyd. We’re keeping it as a theater. We’re doing the facade back to what it was,” Rodin said.
Hamid Hashemi, the CEO of iPic Entertainment, the Florida-based movie company, says they’ll bring the unique screening room experience that the Hollywood-elite have to the masses.
“They’re very comfortable reclining seats, service at your table, including gourmet food and artisanal drinks served to you at your table while watching a movie,” Hashemi said.
Friends of the Boyd founder Howard Haas will appeal the decision.
“We believe they used the wrong legal standard, and they made the wrong decision. The appeal is to the L&I appeal board. This is too important of a landmark building to lose,” Haas said.
The preservationist group was hoping an anonymous donor willing to match the purchase price offer, coupled with fundraising, would keep the Boyd intact, and ultimately, get it restored and reused as a multi-purpose entertainment center.
Attorney Peter Hearn, the former chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, represents the unnamed benefactor.
“I’m here to assure you that it is a respected local foundation that has committed these funds,” Hearn said.
Hearn says “the foundation is well known to the philanthropic community, donating to Philadelphia’s cultural institutions and to historic preservation” often making anonymous donations “to fulfill its mission, and its commitment is real.”