State Rep. Michael O'Brien slammed Gov. Rendell yesterday for ignoring state preservation officials who ruled that two historic buildings in the path of the project must be saved.

O'Brien, D-Philadelphia, whose district includes the Center City site, said the administration was setting "a very, very bad precedent" by trying to demolish the buildings after the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission found the state should keep its 2004 agreement to preserve them.

"It seems to me to be part and parcel of the administration's choice to ignore legislation, court rulings and existing law to expedite projects they deem worthy of completion immediately," O'Brien said.

A Commonwealth Court judge ordered a halt to the demolition Monday after preservationists went to court. The parties will make their cases in a Jan. 8 hearing.

There are 22 historic buildings in the path of the $700 million expansion. An agreement ratified by the historic commission in 2004 calls for the demolition of 19, and integration of the two five-story buildings on Broad Street into the façade of the center.

The buildings are a five-story neo-classical office structure and its adjacent modern annex on Broad between Arch and Cherry streets.

But state officials this fall asked for permission to tear the two down, saying that their deteriorated state made them dangerous.

Preservationists challenged the state's view, and the commission sided with the preservationists in a letter to the state last week.

Gov. Rendell's spokesman Chuck Ardo said that state officials acted to protect the public after city inspectors found the structures unsafe.

"The governor is going to do what's necessary to protect the public," Ardo said.

Demolishing the two buildings would be cheaper than the original plan of building them into the new convention center façade. State Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, said he thinks that money is driving the state's decision.

"I think the administration in Harrisburg is about 'revenue now, revenue now, revenue now,' " Taylor said. "It's 'do whatever you can do now, and everything else be damned.' " *