CHOP - Schuylkill Avenue Community Meeting - December Recap

On Monday December 2, representatives from CHOP and their master planning/design team presented an update to the community about their expansion project along Schuylkill Avenue at the old JFK Vocational School site. CHOP's full slideshow presentation and notes will be published within a week on their website: chop.edu/expansion.

Don from Cooper Robertson, the master planning firm, outlined the team's work since the May public meeting.  Currently the project is in the schematic design phase.  They plan to submit applications for demolition of the JKF building and for zoning/use permits before the end of 2013.  In the new year, they will meet with with the Civic Design Review (CDR) and local Registered Community Organizations (RCOs), including SOSNA. 

PLEASE BE ADVISED, CHOP HOPES TO BEGIN THE THREE-MONTH DEMOLITION OF THE JKF VOCATIONAL SCHOOL IN FEBRUARY 2014. They will provide detailed updates and notices to the near-neighbors and community when demolition is imminent.  A recap of questions and answers is below.

Don described the five public spaces that will be a part of this development:  The Schuyilkill River Trail (for which SRDC already has an easement), the promenade that will cantilever over the CSX railroad tracks, South Street plaza (atop the parking at the same level as the South Street Bridge), Bainbridge Place, and Schuylkill Green.  Parking has been pushed below the South Street Bridge level.  Entrance/exit to the parking will occur off the Bridge itself.  There will also be a drop off driveway off accessed from the Bridge.

The most significant change is the inclusion of a new landscaped stairway connecting Bainbridge Place to the promenade, which CHOP envisions akin to the Spanish Steps in Rome. Under these steps will be loading, trash etc. 

CHOP revealed one detailed rendering of the facade made of glass and terra cotta. The project is being priced out right now and then they move into the design development phase. 

At the close of their presentation, the representatives took questions from the attendees:

  • Question 1: Is there retail in the project? How will we the public interact with the project other than the public spaces?
    • Retail is not part of CHOP's core business and it is not their intention to subsidize it.  They are including an Au Bon Pain-like concept at the promenade/arcade level that will be open to the public.  There also might be opportunities for retail along Bainbridge Place and around the taxi drop off area. 
  • Question 2:  Parking is already difficult in the area. Will on-street parking along Schuylkill Avenue be eliminated as part of this project?
    • On-street parking will only be eliminated during the demolition of the JFK building, but not in the long term.  There is the possibility that the on-street parking lost during demo can be accommodated in a lot near the South Street Bridge.  Once the parking garage/lot is built, CHOP will investigate the feasibility of non-simultaneous use by employees and neighbors alike.  They do not want a big parking lot that no one uses.
  • Question 3:  Schuylkill Avenue is already a very dangerous stretch prone to high speeds.  How will it handle all these new cars?
    • CHOP is working with SOSNA, Councilman Johnson to try traffic-calming measures to slow traffic.
  • Question 4:  How many cars will be in the surface parking lot?
    • Providing 1 space per every 1000 SF of building.  There will roughly be 500 total spaces, 250 inside, 250 outside. 
  • Question 5:  Worry that lots of birds will fly into the glass.  Is anything being done to address this?
    • It will happen some, but the glass will be not very reflective and have articulations every 5 feet.
  • Question 6: Please describe vehicular circulation on Schuylkill Avenue?
    • CHOP is not changing the flow on the street.  They may narrow it - use bulb outs/curb extensions to narrow the crosswalk and improve safety for pedestrians. Also investigating installing a raised table at Bainbridge Street. CHOP wants to make drop off unattractive to reduce amount of traffic and reminded everyone that patients will not be at this facility.
  • Question 7:  Parking is a major concern.
  • Question 8:  Will the connection to the South Street Bridge be both entry and exit, and will you be able to turn left to go directly to I-76 from the parking garage?
    • Yes.  In discussions to potentially move the traffic light.
  • Question 9:  When does the building open?
    • Goal is to open the building in the second quarter of 2017.  Demolition of the JFK building will be in February 2014 and foundations should be poured in June 2014.
  • Question 10:  Concerned about moving the traffic light on the bridge and that it will poss a danger to pedestrians and bicyclists. 
    • Streets Department will decide what is the safest course of action. 
  • Question 11:  How far back from Schuylkill Avenue will the buildings be?
    • For Phase 1, about 60-80 feet, though it will get closer as you head north.
  • Question 12:  Please describe the demolition of the JFK building.
    • Likely working with a company like Brandenberg, a top 5 demolition contractor in the country, that employes its own people (no sub contractors).  No explosives will be used, and dust will be controlled.  CHOP will create a hotline for neighbors to call in case of a problem or emergency.  They will install jersey barriers along Schuylkill Avenue with fencing on top to shield the site. 
  • Question 13:  How long will demo take?
    • Three months.
  • Question 14:  Any thoughts about Phase 2?
    • Healthcare changes rapidly and so the demands and needs change quickly too. Maybe a hot or patient/family housing?
  • Question 15: What will be the hours for demolition?
    • Open to feedback about this.  Likely 7 AM to 3 PM - need a full 8 hour day, but don't want to inconvenience neighbors.  No weekends.
  • Question 16:  How will demolition material be removed?
    • Likely via Schuylkill Avenue, Christian Street and Grays Ferry Avenue.
  • Question 17:  Appreciate public space and committing to it early.  Will we be living next to a continuous construction site for decades?
    • The buildings will be done by 2022 and there is nothing planned beyond that.  There is no planning at CHOP beyond 2031. 
  • Question 18:  How is stormwater being managed?
    • Site will exceed the city's stormwater regulations.  Surface parking lot will drain into rain gardens.
  • Question 19:  What kind of truck traffic is expected to and from the site?
    • After construction, operations related - trash, deliveries, not frequent.
  • Question 20:  Are you expecting 50% of employees to use cars from I-76?
    • Expect 50% of all traffic to be from cars, 50% of which will likely come from I-76. The rest will come from points south and east.  Committed to working with SEPTA to add/alter routes, provide ample bike parking (inside the parking lot).
  • Question 21: Proposing metered parking on Schuylkill Avenue?
    • Prefer permit parking instead of metered parking.  Don't want employees parking on-street.
  • Question 22:  Will all greening be done in Phase 1?
    • Yes.  SRDC, CHOP in discussions with RDA to provide trail access via RDA lot South of existing JFK building.
  • Question 23:  Describe trail access?
    • A bridge from the promenade to the trail is being including as an add alternate
  • Question 24:  How will power get to the site?
    • All underground from the northeast corner of the site.
  • Question 25:  How tall will phase 2 be?
    • Allowed 2 million SF per zoning.  Will try to make Phase 2 as low as possible.