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Blue Horizon - Philadelphia Historical Commission Architecture Committee

All That Philly Jazz Director Faye Anderson provided public comment in support of Philadelphia Historical Commission staff recommendation to deny final approval of Orens Bros. Real Estate’s design for the Blue Horizon front façade. The Blue Horizon is a historic landmark. Unfortunately, only the façade is protected. Orens Bros. plans to demolish the brownstones and construct a hotel.

The Philadelphia Historical Commission Architecture Committee voted to send Orens Bros. back to the drawing board.

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Blue Horizon - Philadelphia Historical Commission Architecture Committee

  1. 1. My name is Faye Anderson. I am director of All That Philly Jazz, a place-based public history project that is documenting and contextualizing Philadelphia’s jazz history. Since the project was launched in 2013, we have mapped hundreds of site including the Legendary Blue Horizon. The Legendary Blue Horizon is one of the few extant buildings associated with Philadelphia’s golden age of jazz. Before it was a beloved boxing venue, it was an entertainment destination. Duke Ellington performed in the ballroom that was added on by Philadelphia Lodge No. 54, Loyal Order of Moose. The members-only bar later became a nightspot open to the public. The Camero Room played host to jazz legends-in-the-making like trumpeters Clifford Brown and Fats Navarro. The Legendary Blue Horizon holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Philadelphians as evidenced by its depiction on the Philadelphia Courthouse Mural commissioned under the Percent for Art Program. As you can see, the iconic stairs figure prominently in Philadelphians’ memories.
  2. 2. I posted the recent Philadelphia Inquirer report about the Orens Bros. proposal to All That Philly Jazz’s Facebook page. The post went viral. Why? This place matters. The proposed hotel is appropriately named since it takes a lot of moxy to seek approval to cheapen a beloved historic landmark with modern add-ons, materials and signage. The proposed design erases the historic character of the front façades. I agree with the Commission staff that the applicant’s design does not comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. It would make a mockery of historic designation if the Committee voted to ignore the standards. I recognize that financing of the project is outside the purview of this Committee. That said, it is important to note that in an earlier iteration of the project, Orens Bros. received $7 million in grants under Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) for what was then an $18 million project. Of the $7 million in state grants, Orens Bros. drew down $748,578; the balance of the grants expired. The applicant spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in taxpayers’ money and walked away without sealing the buildings. The historic landmark is now exposed to the elements.
  3. 3. The first round of RACP funding applications closes on January 31. I fully expect Orens Bros. will again rattle the cup for a public subsidy for its now $22 million project. If the proposed design is approved, Philadelphians and other taxpayers would effectively pay for the demolition and defacement of a beloved historic landmark. Orens Bros. Real Estate does not care about the Legendary Blue Horizon, but this Committee can make them care. The application should be denied on the grounds the proposed design does not comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, specifically Standards 2, 9 and 10. The applicant should go back to the drawing board and develop a design that does, in fact, preserve the front façades and respect their historic character. Thank you.

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