At a packed hearing, the Philadelphia Art Commission gave unanimous approval this morning to the overall design concept for a new Barnes Foundation building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, virtually clearing the way for construction to begin as early as November.

The $200 million museum, designed by New York's Tod Williams and Billie Tsien to house the unsurpassed collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, will be located on a 200,000-square-foot site between 20th and 21st Streets.

The collection has been housed in a Paul Cret-designed gallery in Merion since 1925. The new Barnes is slated to open in 2012.

Many opponents of relocating the collection attended the hearing, chaired by artist Moe Brooker of Moore College of Art and Design. Brooker kept a tight rein on public comment, seeking to limit remarks to the architectural design - which is what the commission is charged with reviewing - rather than on the ethics of moving art collections.

Several city residents and architects also applauded the move and the design.

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or ssalisbury@phillynews.com