Aug 31, 2023 - Development

What the Family Court Building overhaul will look like

The redone complex will include the African American Museum, an expanded Parkway Central Library and a new Children and Family Center.
The complex will include the African American Museum (forefront). Rendering courtesy of National/Frontier

Long-awaited plans for the city's old Family Court Building are finally taking shape.

Why it matters: The redevelopment project will transform a marquee spot along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Driving the news: The plans call for the former courthouse at 1801 Vine Street, which looks out on Logan Square, to house a 200-room boutique hotel, restaurant, bar, and event spaces, city officials announced this week.

  • An adjacent parking lot at 1901 Wood Street will become the new home for a bigger African American Museum — located for decades on Arch Street — as well as an expansion of the Parkway Central Library and its sprawling new Children and Family Center.
Rendering of what the hotel entrance will look like at Philly's Family Court Building.
Rendering of the hotel entrance. Courtesy of National/Frontier

What they're saying: "The stories of African Americans are the stories of Philadelphia, and they deserved to be told in the center of our city's arts and cultural community," council president Darrell Clarke said in a statement.

Zoom in: The city began soliciting proposals for the old Family Court building in 2010, per the Inquirer.

  • National Real Estate Development, a Philly-based firm whose notable projects include the East Market, is partnering with Frontier Development & Hospitality Group.
  • They expect to have the new cultural hub open by 2028 at the earliest.

Of note: The long-vacant Family Court was designed by architect John Windrim, and the complex that houses the buildings was modeled after Place de la Concorde, in Paris. The courthouse went up in Philly in 1941. It houses 37 murals and is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

  • The murals must be preserved and remain publicly accessible, per WHYY.
Rendering of the library at the Family Court Building.
Rendering of the library expansion. Courtesy of National/Frontier

👀 What we're watching: The developers still have to negotiate terms with the city and go through the permitting process, which could be complicated because of the building's historic designation.

  • The developers say they'll pursue federal historic tax credits to help finance the project, per the Inquirer.

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