A Christmas (Eve) Miracle? Painted Bride Facade Could Be Preserved After All

Just two months ago, we provided an update on the status of 230 Vine St., most commonly known as the longtime home of the Painted Bride Arts Center. In case you’re late to the game on this one, this building is one of the more interesting and unique buildings in town because local artist Isaiah Zagar covered the whole facade with a mosaic called Skin of the Bride over the course of the 1990s. But Painted Bride is pivoting and their operation no longer calls for a large building in Old City, so they’re planning to sell the property to developers and use the profits from the sale to further the mission of the organization.

Painted Bride former entrance

Said developers have the property under agreement for $4.85M from what we understand, and an initial plan called for the demolition of the building and the construction of 16 condo units. As you might guess, many people objected to the potential demolition of the building, and it was quickly nominated as historic, but the nomination was ultimately not successful. Since then, the battles have taken place in court. Orphans Court ruled that buyers couldn’t tear down the building, but a couple months ago, the Commonwealth Court overturned the previous ruling, meaning that a buyer could indeed demo the building. At the time, we speculated that this ruling would either mean the imminent demolition of the building or that the property could remain tied up in litigation for another year or two. But it seems we were mistaken, as we’ve learned about a heretofore unconsidered third path.

A reader reached out to us yesterday and let us know that they had received notification of a community meeting in Old City regarding a proposed development at this address. This letter indicates that the developers are seeking a variance for a new plan which calls for an apartment building at the site with 70 units, 10 short term rentals, 12 parking spots, and a retail space on Vine Street. The letter also explained that this plan would entail the removal of the roof of the existing building but that it would preserve the entirety of the existing facade. The renderings from Atrium Design Group seem to confirm this.

Aerial view
Project rendering

Assuming that this project gets community support and a variance from the ZBA, this feels like a win win outcome. The developers will construct a building that is wholly appropriate for this location in terms of height which also includes enough density to make the venture worthwhile. And the community and the city as a whole will continue to enjoy this wonderful piece of public art. The only fly in the ointment is that variances are never guaranteed, so it’s always possible that enough near neighbors could rally to oppose the development. But we don’t see that as particularly likely here, and we hope that the community can appreciate an effort from a developer to meet them halfway and will embrace this plan. If that does indeed occur, we’ll soon see a cool new building rise here with a one of a kind first floor, and Painted Bride will receive an influx of funds to continue doing their good work for many years to come.

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