Bernie Sanders is going down — or at least his likeness is coming down from the side of a building in Southwest Center City.
Philly the Bern, a mural popularized during the 2016 presidential primary when the Democratic senator from Vermont challenged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is being taken down during the demolition of 2146 Catharine St.
Demolition, which began this week, is expected to wrap up next week, its current and former property owners said.
Former property owner Max Glass, 31, was inspired by Sanders’ 2016 campaign and reached out to photographer and blogger Conrad Benner, better known as Streets Dept., to help find someone willing to take on the project. Artists Old Broads and Disto then finished up the work with the help of a crowdfunding campaign in March 2016.
Removing the U.S. senator and presidential candidate’s likeness now, Glass said, is far from political. Preserving the work just doesn’t make much financial sense.
“Things come and go, and sadly, this is now the moment where this mural is going to go away,” Glass said.
The building was sold to Century Home Builders last year, with plans to turn it into a three-story single family home with a finished basement and roof deck, according to public records. Daniel Doogan, who submitted a zoning application outlining the plans on behalf of the group earlier this year, said he hopes construction will wrap up early next year.
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The building has a fractured side wall, as well as loose and missing bricks under the second floor window, and was deemed unsafe by the Department of Licenses and Inspections. When such a determination is made, it is the owner’s responsibility to make the structure safe through repairs or demolition, a city spokesperson said. A demolition permit was issued this past spring.
“I couldn’t see any which way to save the building that would make sense,” Doogan said.
History has, of course, repeated itself — Sanders is again running in the Democratic primary for president in 2020, polling in the top tier of candidates among Pennsylvania Democrats, The Inquirer recently reported.
“It’s remarkable that it’s lasted all the way up until the sort of next primary has started," Glass said. "It’s partially an indicator of how long it’s been up, but also an indicator of how continuous the political cycle is now. And I think that it has zero symbolic meaning that it’s being knocked down at the current moment.”