Update: CHOP Will Make Schuylkill Avenue the Place to Be

Mr. Fox

Last month, representatives from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia presented plans for their Schuylkill Avenue site to an overstuffed room of community members and stakeholders. We tried to get into this meeting, but alas, there were too many bodies inside and we were forced to stand in the hallway, unable to hear much of anything. Thankfully, SOSNA had some representation at this meeting, and was kind enough to summarize the main takeaways on their website.

A little background- you may recall, we brought this site to your attention a little less than a year ago, when several of the buildings surrounding Springfield Beer Distributor were being torn down. At the time, we told you that the 9 acre plot on Schuylkill Ave will include the Springfield Beer site as well as the former JFK Vocational High School. At the time, we were told that CHOP will mostly house clinical research and operations for the hospital on Schuylkill Ave., in a space that will approach a million square feet. As you can imagine, those plans have evolved.

Springfield site
Fmr vocational school

Since last summer, consultants Cooper Robertson & Partners (the folks who did the Plan for the Central Delaware) have put together a master plan for this site, which has been accepted by CHOP. The intent of this LEED project is to bring CHOP offices and labs, currently scattered at different sites around town, into a single facility. The plan, as of now, consists of three phases. Phase 1, which should be completed by 2017, will involve 500K sqft of building space and 500 parking spots. Phase 2 will include an addition 350K sqft of building space and 350 parking spots, and Phase 3 will mean yet another 500K of building space and 500 more spots for cars. It could take as long as twenty years before all three phases are completed.

The buildings, as currently proposed, will likely be 30-40 stories tall. Plans call for three or four buildings, and the possibility of a small, extended stay hotel was mentioned as well.

This project will mean so much more for this area than new office space and the elimination of a popular beer distributor. CHOP plans to integrate their site with the Schuylkill River Trail, which should travel past the South Street Bridge by the time Phase 1 is complete. In addition, first floor commercial uses will be included on both Schuylkill Avenue and a newly extended 2700 (or maybe 2800?) block of Bainbridge Street. We would imagine that these new commercial spaces will be enjoyed by both CHOP employees, and people in the neighborhood. People who live nearby will also benefit from the new landscaping both on the site and on Schuylkill Avenue.

Where Bainbridge St. will be extended

On a macro level, this project has enormous implications. Though Naval Square has homes that back up to Schuylkill Ave., this project will bring life and vitality to a street that's mostly used as a shortcut to the South Street Bridge. And the number of new people working in the neighborhood could not only increase housing demand in Fitler Square and Graduate Hospital, but also in Point Breeze and Grays Ferry. Not only should this project increase housing demand, but it should improve prospects for businesses in the area.

Naval Square across the street. Imagine what this will look like in five years...

And even more importantly: With CHOP jumping the river for some of its operations, we could imagine several other West Philly institutions following suit as available real estate dwindles on the western side of the Schuylkill. Remember, Penn bought the massive Dupont lab site at 34th & Grays Ferry a couple of years back, so CHOP is not alone in crossing the river.

We'll keep an eye on this project and pass along updates and renderings as they become available.