PHILADELPHIA-Mayor John Street has officially transferred ownership of the Philadelphia Youth Study Center at 20th Street on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Barnes Foundation. At the same time, he revealed plans to move the existing juvenile detention center, which is currently occupied, to the East Falls neighborhood.

The transfer represents one more step in a protracted and contentious effort to bring the Barnes’ art collection from suburban Lower Merion to the city’s “museum mile” that stretches from Logan Square to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The collection, valued at as much as $35 billion, is now housed in a building constructed by Albert Barnes specifically to display the collection, not as a museum, but as an educational venue.

Prior to his death, Barnes hobbled the foundation with numerous covenants that limited access, visitor fees and the ability to raise funds. They also forbid rearrangement of the works as well as any relocation. The covenants combined with mismanagement by an earlier foundation board put the foundation on the brink of bankruptcy.

In 2002, the locally based Pew Charitable Trusts and the Lenfest and Annenberg foundations pledged to raise $150 million to construct a $100-million new museum here and provide a $50-million endowment to maintain it.

Following a series of court battles, in 2004 the Montgomery County Orphan’s Court, which has jurisdiction over nonprofits, lifted some of the covenants, paving the way for relocation of the collection. The court stipulated that the works, which include 180 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, and others by Van Gogh, Degas, Manet, Monet and more, be arranged as they are in the Lower Merion building. In 2006, Gov. Ed Rendell threw his support behind the relocation by providing Mayor Street with $25 million from the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Fund, earmarked specifically for construction of the new museum.

Today, following Street’s property transfer, a Barnes Foundation spokesman tells that an architect for the project “will be chosen within the next few weeks.” Regarding a timeline, he says, “demolition will begin when the children are relocated, and the city has until May 2008 to vacate the building. The construction timeline will be set, once the architect is named.”

Yet, some hurdles remain. In late August, Friends of the Barnes, a group opposing the move, filed a petition asking the judge to reverse the 2004 decision, arguing that it was based on faulty financial information. Lower Merion residents are also engaged in legal efforts to keep the Barnes where it is.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Once you are an ALM digital member, you’ll receive:

  • Unlimited access to GlobeSt and other free ALM publications
  • Access to 15 years of GlobeSt archives
  • Your choice of GlobeSt digital newsletters and over 70 others from popular sister publications
  • 1 free article* every 30 days across the ALM subscription network
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM events and publications

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


© 2023 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.


GlobeSt Net Lease Spring 2024Event

This conference brings together the industry's most influential & knowledgeable real estate executives from the net lease sector.

Get More Information


Join GlobeSt

Don't miss crucial news and insights you need to make informed commercial real estate decisions. Join now!

  • Free unlimited access to's trusted and independent team of experts who provide commercial real estate owners, investors, developers, brokers and finance professionals with comprehensive coverage, analysis and best practices necessary to innovate and build business.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and GlobeSt events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join GlobeSt

Copyright © 2023 ALM Global, LLC. All Rights Reserved.