When the Philadelphia Civic Center was demolished in 2005, many of the historic building’s artifacts were salvaged and auctioned off, including one of the building’s most treasured pieces – a large limestone frieze that depicts construction techniques and laborers that performed them throughout history. Now, that piece of history will be on permanent display at a pedestrian plaza at the Crossing Shopping Center, which will open in early December at the intersection of Route 440 and 22nd Street.
The frieze depicts laborers performing various construction techniques, starting with ancient Egyptians on the left side and ending with 1930s-era steel construction. Vincent Alessi, President of the Bayonne-based real estate development corporation, the Alessi Organization, purchased the piece after it was salvaged by Olde Good Things, an organization that funds mission work in Haiti and has outlets throughout the region.
Alessi has been involved with various redevelopments throughout Bayonne, including a recently-opened wine filling station in Bergen Point and an overhaul of South Cove Commons, another retail plaza just north of the Crossing on the west side of Route 440 that is planning to add a hotel, an 80-unit residential building, and office space.
The property that is now home to the Crossing Shopping Center was once the site of industrial, commercial, and residential buildings. Saloons, cafes, and taverns stood on the property from the 1920s until the buildings were torn down in the 1980s. Most recently, the property was the site of the Durable Recycling facility. Now, the center will feature a Quick Chek, Burger King, an Auto Zone, and mixed-use office space.
“It looks really cool. It definitely adds a little flavor to the area. These malls aren’t always interesting to look at. And I love history, so it’s great as far I’m concerned.” –Mike Gates
A little flavor
“It looks really cool,” said Mike Gates, 39, who was getting gas at a Quick Chek in the same complex. “It definitely adds a little flavor to the area. These malls aren’t always interesting to look at. And I love history, so it’s great as far I’m concerned.”
The Philadelphia Civic Center, built in 1929, was also known as “Convention Hall” because it hosted the Democratic National Convention in 1936 and 1948, and the Republican National Convention in 1940 and 1948. During its heyday the Beatles performed there during the band’s first American tour and the Philadelphia Warriors (later the 76ers) played basketball there. When another arena, The Spectrum, opened in the city in 1967, the Civic Center was disinvested and slowly fell into disrepair. The Spectrum was demolished in 2009, 13 years after a new stadium, now called the Wells Fargo Center, was constructed.
The limestone freeze that once saw millions of visitors a year now sits along a wall in a small pedestrian plaza with stone seating along Route 440. With new development set to break ground on the former Military Ocean Terminal Base, city officials and developers want the area to connect pedestrians and drivers from the Crossing to the base, where more residential development is slated, along with a Costco. Improvements to Lefante Way and the new park that will be constructed on MOTBY’s southern shore will also make the area more enticing for shoppers and new residents.
“We are happy to have the privilege of sharing this piece with the people of Bayonne and creating a space for the community,” said Vincent Alessi in a press release.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.