Children’s Hospital discusses master plan for Southwest Center City
Over the next 20-or-so years, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia plans to expand its presence in the city by adding a nine-acre, open ambulatory care and research campus in Southwest Center City, on the east side of the Schuylkill River in the section often called the “Devil’s Pocket” in Grays Ferry. CHOP has told residents of that area that they wanted to be as transparent as possible during the process, and as part of that transparency, they held their fourth community meeting last night at the Philadelphia School at 25th and Lombard.
The multipurpose room in the school was packed full or residents and, after a 30-minute presentation and slides (which we’ll post here when we get them), most of their questions were answered, even though some feigned skepticism or worry about more construction in an area that’s seen a lot of it in recent years.
Stemming from plans first presented in August 2011, CHOP has a master plan to bring its many facilities and sites around town into one basic spot in the city: on the east and west sides of the Schuylkill River, in the area surrounding South Street West, building three 20+ floor towers and free-standing garages. And they’re doing it with Cooper Robertson, a New York-based architecture firm which has brought new ideas to the project to revive the area between the river and Schuylkill Ave., south of South.
In addition to CHOP’s expansion, the hospital is working with the South x Schuylkill Task Force, which includes members of several neighborhood organizations; CSX, which owns freight rail in the area; and the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, who presented a plan to bring an expanded Schuylkill River train to the area to eventually connect all the way to Bertram’s Garden in Southwest Philadelphia.
Danielle Gray, speaking on behalf of the SRDC, noted the extended trail would look more natural than the Schuylkill Banks does now, with more native species of trees and shadier areas as you walk farther south.
Being that as it may, and since the work has yet to begin, there were plenty of variables those presenting at last night’s meeting couldn’t answer or were vague about. Among them:
When would it start? (Unknown, but they want the first of the project’s four “phases” to be complete by May 2017, so it can’t be that far off.)
What’s the schedule? (Don’t know.)
What would traffic be like during and after construction? (”During” was sort of unclear, though presenters noted half of those parked at the 1,600-car parking garage would likely come off the Expressway and arrive via the South Street Bridge.)
What would the hours be like? (It’d be regular business hours, though being as the facility is based upon research, researchers could go in and out as they choose.)
Would there be additional retail storefronts built, too? (That’s been the plan, but it was noted retail is not a priority as of now—and there’s nothing worse than empty retail space.)
What would happen to real estate prices in the area? (Unknown.)
And what would the chronology of the building be? (North to south; that part seemed definite.)