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Developers have been selected to revamp the Family Court Building into a hotel. An adjacent lot will hold the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Free Library’s new Children and Family Center.
The 247,196 square foot historic building at 1801 Vine Street will become a hotel with a signature restaurant, bar, and event spaces. The hotel is expected to include more than 200 guest rooms.
The Free Library’s 88,000 square foot parking lot at 1901 Wood St. will become the Children and Family Center, with the African American Museum behind it.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Mayor Jim Kenney said the parkway location is exactly where the African American Museum should be, not across the street from a prison, where the current facility is located.
“It’s not just African American history, it’s American history,” Kenney said. “It’s just been denied. It’s been ripped out of the history books. It’s crazy. I mean, it’s crazy what we’ve done over the years. This is where it belongs, and it’s a beautiful building. The renderings are beautiful and I expect to have the same feeling that I did when I went through the African American Museum in Washington, D.C.”
Two real estate developers will be coming together under the same banner for the project: National Real Estate Development and the Frontier Development & Hospitality Group. Frontier founder Evens Charles said it’s a privilege to be a co-developer on the “new, state-of-the-art African American Museum.”
“To be an African American developer associated with that, something that my 16-month-old daughter can look upon for years to come and say, ‘My dad had something to do with that,’” Charles said. “That’s something that’s just going to be deeply inspiring to me.”
The city will provide $50 million dollars in capital funding for the project starting in 2025. The earliest estimate for the project’s completion is sometime in 2028.
Historic murals, 37 to be exact, don the Family Court Building’s public areas, courtrooms, and waiting rooms. The redevelopment requires the murals to stay in the building, and some sort of public access is required. Other features include a stained glass window depicting an allegory of Justice in the elevator lobby, decorative painting throughout the spaces in a surprising pastel palette, and a huge sculpture of Judge Charles Brown in the center of the main hallway.
In August 2022, officials announced AAMP’s relocation after spending nearly 50 years at the corner of 7th and Arch. The space will include a theater, cafe, and exhibit space dedicated to telling the stories of notable Black Philadelphians.
In 2014, the historic building was set to be turned into a Kimpton Hotel by the Peebles Corporation. However, the project fell through after Peebles needed help securing tax credits to renovate the building.
The Family Court building opened in 1941 and was designed by Philadelphia architect John Windrim as a twin to Horace Trumbauer’s Free Library Building next door. The Family Court building was listed in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1971.