Dirt Finally Moving at the Long Planned Cascia Center

Roughly half a dozen years ago, we told you about the demolition of the former Saint Rita’s school at the southwest corner of Broad & Ellsworth. As the name suggests, the school was associated with the Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine, the handsome building located just next door, to the south. The demolition took place in anticipation of the construction of the Cascia Center, which was described at the time as “a place of healing, reflection, and assistance for all people.” The plans for the Cascia Center called for a two-story building with a surface parking lot at the corner, and those plans shifted to a one-story building. We weren’t satisfied with either concept, lamenting the underuse of a sizable and well located corner.

Speaking of underuse, the Cascia Center has not materialized yet, and the lot has been used for surface parking for several years. But here’s some good news- we heard from a reader that dirt has started moving at the site, and when we went for a visit, we did indeed see an excavator doing its thing.

Current view
Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine

More good news for those that don’t recall – the plans for the Cascia Center continued to evolve as the years rolled along. In 2016, we learned that Saint Rita’s would be partnering with Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to construct a new building that includes their desired new facility as well as dozens of affordable units for seniors. That plan called for a seven story building with 10K sqft of shrine-related use on the two bottom floors, 62 one-bedroom apartments on the five upper floors, and 8 parking spots.

By the end of the year, the plan had changed again, unfortunately taking a step back in our estimation. The building shrank by 2 floors, eliminating a floor of Cascia Center space and also reducing the unit count down to 46 apartments. The design, from Cecil Baker + Partners, also looked like it went through some value engineering. When we saw the renderings, we found ourselves wishing for a taller and denser building, but also appreciated the improvement over the original iterations.

Rendering from 2014
Rendering from 2016
Rendering on Ellsworth Street

Looking at the permits, it appears that the plans changed again at some point in 2017. The unit count is the same, but the building has grown another story and now looks like it’ll be a six-story building, with office and community space occupying sections of the first and second floors. With construction now getting started at last, we imagine we’ll see the building completed in about a year and a half, which will be eight years after we first covered a potential project at this location. Given the dramatic improvements to the plan over the years, we’d say the wait was worthwhile. And hey, affordable senior housing is a huge need in Philadelphia, so this building will make a difference in many lives, even though it took far longer to coalesce than originally expected.

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