A recent site visit by Philadelphia YIMBY has discovered that construction work has still not started on the 15-story, 150-room AC Hotel by Marriott at 230 North 13th Street in Chinatown, Center City. Developed by Baywood Hotels, the development will add a vertical extension atop the existing prewar building, bringing the structure’s total height to 181 feet. Permits were issued in May of last year and the building continues to stand vacant.
The building at the site has an illustrious history. The sleek, Art Moderne structure was designed by architect Harold Lee and holds over 20,000 square feet of interior space. It originally housed a private movie screening facility for Warner Brothers. Since 1965, the structure hosted NFL Films, a film editing company for the National Football League.
After NFL Films relocated to New Jersey in the 1980s, the building held the national headquarters of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a non-profit mentoring organization that describes its mission as one meant to “create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth,” partnering adults with children ranging from five years old to young adulthood. Although the organization left the property in 2014, moving its headquarters to Texas, its banner remains emblazoned atop the building cornice.
In 2014, the stately and storied building was sold for $2.75 million. Thankfully, its 2008 placement on the Historic Register protects the structure from demolition. As such, the structure will serve as a grand an ornate base for an otherwise conventional-looking hotel.
The decision to re-purpose the site for hospitality use is logical due to its location just north of the Convention Center, in a neighborhood also occasionally described as the Convention Center District. The area is currently seeing a minor surge in construction, with several projects underway on the surrounding blocks and several properties awaiting potential development. Whether or not work goes forward with the hotel as planned, we have high hopes for the property given the certainty of preservation of the historic building and the site’s central, transit-accessible location.