CHOP - Schuylkill Avenue Community Meeting - Recap

Last night, representatives from CHOP and their master planning firm, Cooper Robertson, appeared at the Philadelphia School to update the community on CHOP's Schuylkill Avenue project (the site of the Springfield Beer Distributor and former JFK Vocational School). CHOP has set up a new website dedicated to this expansion project: chop.edu/expansion.  Anyone who has a question about the project can email community@email.chop.edu or call 267-426-6904.

CHOP will be posting a set of FAQs related to the project and the slides from last night's powerpoint on their website. What follows is a brief recap of the meeting, including the information presented by Cooper Robertson and CHOP personnel, as well as questions from neighbors. It is by no means an exact transcript of proceedings, just as accurate a synopsis as we could put together. Please refer to the website, email and phone above for official details.

  • This was the 4th community held with CHOP since they purchased the land.
  • CHOP has set up a special website for the project and encouraged any interested neighbor to call 267-426-6904 with questions or comments, or email community@email.chop.edu.
  • CHOP is sensitive to issues such as traffic, access to the waterfront and environmental impacts.
  • Cooper Robertson presented the Schuylkill Avenue Master Plan
    • CHOP Board has met and endorsed the master plan.
    • Site is very prominent and has not only importance to neighborhood but also city and region.
    • CHOP's land runs almost entirely to the river itself (portions of the site are below the 100-year floodplain), though there are existing easements for CSX and power/sewer.
    • CHOP and the Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC) have formalized an easement to allow an extension of the Schuylkill River Trail to extend south of the South Street Bridge nearly to Catharine Street along the river.
    • Goal is to build and open campus through which the neighborhood flows.
    • To that end there are five new open spaces as part of this project:
      1. SCHUYLKILL GREEN:  A triangular open space adjacent to Schuylkill Avenue that will be the "front door" for the project, and buffer the buildings from the street itself. 
      2. BAINBRIDGE PLACE:  CHOP cannot build on this stretch, which is essentially a continuation of Bainbridge Street thru the site, because of an existing easement for power/sewer.
      3. SOUTH STREET PLAZA:  Accessed off the South Street Bridge.
      4. THE PROMENADE: Also accessed off South Street Bridge it will connect neighbors and employees to the Plaza and to the Schuylkill River Trail.
      5. THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER TRAIL:  Danielle Gray from SRDC did a brief presentation on the Trail Extension.
        • The Boardwalk from Locust street will end just south of the South Street Bridge, where an access stair has already been installed.
        • Easement already in place with CHOP, working with CSX and PECO to secure additional easements (to Christian).
        • Extend trail to Christian Street, ending in a cul-de-sac, similar to one currently at Locust.
        • Segment would be more "natural" than the trail north of Locust because it is so narrow - less lawns, more trees.
        • In the final stages of design - also remove invasive species and planting trees and grasses.
        • Shooting to complete Trail Extension by Late 2015
  • The Buildings:
    • PHASE I:  23 stories (19 stories of offices atop a four-story parking podium).
    • 559,000 SF of office space - offices are for research NOT patient care.
    • Use PHASE 3/4 site as location for parking.
    • Incentivize transit use.
    • 17,000 SF interim commercial use; also active commercial uses on ground floor around the parking.
    • PHASE II would be immediately adjacent to South Street Bridge.  Further phases South of Phase I.
  • Questions from the Audience:
    1. From Bainbridge/Schuylkill Ave and concerned about construction schedules.
      • CHOP not that far along to comment on construction schedules, but will share concerns with contractors.
    2. The project is completely out of scale with the neighborhood and reduces significantly the light and air and views of neighbors.
      • Building oriented to be perpendicular to the river and since it is slightly north of most of the homes, most of shadows will be cast on the river.  Zoning allows for 5 floor area ratio (F.A.R) (learn more about what FAR is) so allows for lots of density, but CHOP wants to do it right.
    3. Can CHOP speak to the commercial/retail aspects of the project?
      • CHOP truthfully "indifferent" to retail - want to help "knit" retail into the fabric of the project and neighborhood, but want to re-inforce South Street retail; don't want to see empty retail.
    4. How does CHOP anticipate this project going through zoning?
      • Use and size are both by-right given the industrial zoning, but they may need a variance for the number of loading docks.
    5. Please explain the ramps accessing Schuylkill Avenue
      • CHOP estimates that 50% of traffic will be coming to the site via the Schuylkill Expressway, and they want to intercept this traffic before it reaches the neighborhood.
      • There is a ramp off the South Street Bridge and a traffic signal that would bring traffic into the site.
    6. What will be the hours of operation and lighting on the project?
      • Lighting has not been determined; researchers work all hours, but mostly operating standard business hours.
    7. How many cars does CHOP anticipate will be generated by this project?
      • CHOP has not filed a traffic study with the city.  They did research origins of traffic and have a 600-car capacity in Phase 1.
    8. Please outline the demolition of the existing structures, especially the JKF building.
      • Haven't outlined a timing of demolition, and do not plan an implosion.
      • Likely dismantle the building and buffer Schuylkill Avenue from this activity.
    9. CHOP has worked closely with the South X Schuylkill Task Force, which oversaw the production of the South X Schuylkill Vision Plan.  CHOP is clearly working to address the main issues outlined in that Plan and have shown a willingness to continue to do so, though of course much work remains to be done.
    10. How will people get to this site beyond cars?
      • Working with SEPTA to consider route changes.  University City Regional Rail stop also nearby.
    11. Please outline the chronology of building construction here.
      • Looking 20 years into the future.  Will build from north to south, starting just south of the South Street Bridge.
    12. Will the Promenade be accessible to the public?
      • Yes.
    13. Where will construction workers park?
      • For most of the first phases, all construction parking should take place on site.
    14. Will Phase 1 include demo of the JKF building? What is the timeframe?
      • Very reluctant to outline timing, but the hard deadline is that the first phase must be done by Mid May 2017.
    15. Next time, please provide renderings from the community's perspective so people can get a more realistic sense how the scale of these buildings will look in context.
    16. Should we be expecting continuous construction at this site? Meaning, as soon as Phase 1 finishes Phase 2 will get underway?
      • Probably not continuous construction here. 
      • There will not be much excavation because the site is already below the flood plane, so few dumptrucks running on and off site.
    17. Many big projects have come through this neighborhood - it is vital that we get the process management schedule right.