Earlier in the month, the back-dozers and bull-hoes began picking away at the sad carcass of the Sidney Hillman Medical Medical Center of the Men’s Apparel Industry of Philadelphia, built on the 2100 block of Chestnut Street in the 1950s by Magaziner & Polss. PlanPhilly, in November 2009, reported on the earlier debates about whether to preserve the Hillman Center or not — about whether it was a significant piece of Modernist architecture worthy of saving or just “butt-fugly” as GroJLart would later call it (in his Philadelphia! blog).
Now, I have a soft spot for Modernist architecture like the Hillman but I would never argue that she’d be a winner of many (or any!) beauty contests. But, I still like the lines, the facade materials and the type face used on the sign. More importantly, I like (well, I guess liked would be more appropriate now, wouldn’t it?) the scale, especially when compared with the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion nextdoor and the First Unitarian Church across Chestnut Street. Secondly, considering how much non-descript crap (there, I said it) has been going up around the city (cough, 10Rittenhouse, cough, cough), it would have been cool to see the Hillman repurposed.
Of course, that’s all Schuylkill punch over the dam now; the Hillman’s being picked to bits as I type this. I’ll be interested to see (translation: I’m afraid to see) what the Buck (Company) the Chicago developer will put there. It’s supposed to be a 32-story multi-use building, and some folks (PhillyBricks, a moderate voice in the debate, for one) suggest that maybe it will help get Chestnut back on track, maybe even spurring — finally! — someone to save the old Eric Theater.
I would love to see the Eric restored, and I would love to see Chestnut Street build up some momentum… but I wonder if a 30-something-story multi-use yada, yada, yada (we’ve all heard the descriptions before) will do this or just be more high-priced condos for people who need garages, concierge service, a whole passel of amenities and little interaction with the city.
Maybe look at the Murano (21st and Market) as an example? It took forever to fill, if it’s even full yet…and does it really look like the vacant buildings along that stretch of Market have miraculously been filled, or that the XXXX Forum movie theater is going anywhere anytime soon?
Check out HiddenCity for more on the demolition of the Hillman Center and how it came about.