Hope for a Better Cascia Center

It's been quite a roller coaster year for the Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine. In January, we told you about the demolition of the former Saint Rita's school at Broad & Ellsworth. This was notable not only because a large building was being demolished, but also because it was a clear nail in the coffin for the building's reuse. For several years prior, the shrine had plans to build a small addition onto the old school and convert the building into the Cascia Center, a place for "healing, reflection, and assistance for all people."

Earlier this year, a new plan emerged that would have entailed the construction of a one-story building on the corner of Broad & Ellsworth, with a surface parking lot in the rear. We were, to say the least, unimpressed.

Cascia Center site, in the snow

Most recent project presented to community. Image from Passyunk Post.

When we presented this information back in March, our commentary was apparently prescient. And we quote, uh, ourselves: "At the very least, they should sell off the section of the parcel currently reserved for a surface parking lot to a developer, and use the windfall to raise the building a story with parking underneath. Even better would be a collaboration with a developer to build a large mixed-use building that includes parking, apartments, commercial space, and the Cascia Center on the building's second floor. With some tax credits, we can fathom the idea of an affordable component to such a project. Wouldn't that be win-win-win?"

An article in today's Inquirer suggests that a collaboration with a developer could indeed be in the cards. Representatives from the Shrine have met with eight different developers, including the Goldenberg Group, discussing alternatives for the site that include residential and commercial elements incorporated with the Cascia Center. Just think, a little height, a little density, and a little retail and this corner could be a real landmark on South Broad Street.

Unfortunately, the parcel is inexplicably zoned for single family homes. So no matter what's proposed, it's gonna have to go before the community and the ZBA. Buckle up, folks.