Swedish Medical Center unveiled possible plans for future expansion of their Cherry Hill campus during a community meeting last week.
About 40 community members attended, and most voiced opposition to the various construction proposals. The plans could see the hospital spread into 18th Avenue’s privately owned residential area and expand their presence on 16th Avenue.
In 2009, Swedish Medical Center’s MIMP (Major Institution Master Plan) expired, creating an opening for potential expansion. A booklet handed out at the meeting says the new proposed construction is in anticipation of future space needs. Swedish representatives anticipate an “increased need for specialty services” as baby boomers continue to age.
The first scenario presented looks at opportunities without additional expansion. The representatives said this plan will provide “no logical growth opportunities.” From the SMC plan (posted in full below):
The second plan calls for increased vertical zoning of the campus but no outward expansion.
The third, which was almost universally panned including by some on the citizen advisory committee, called for vertical expansion as well as boundary expansion that could effectively evict some local residents.
Swedish filed their concept plan February 15, a plan that could take as long as two years to reach the City Council. Planners will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to assess effects on the neighborhood.
“We need to centralize the care here,” said Marcia Peterson, Director of Strategic Planning for Swedish.
Alternative #2 would include buildings constructed up to 90 feet tall. Some voiced concerns that the taller buildings would eliminate a lot of sunny days for those on 18th Avenue.
Local resident John Mulaly was concerned about when houses would be vacated under Alternatives #2 or #3. No timeline is/was established. Mulaly was also concerned “about the safety of his children” who bike on 19th Avenue.
Another local resident, Patrick Angus, said that Swedish has caused terrible bus times for him and that if they were to expand their parking structures he would “just walk to work.”
In continuing with the transit oriented talks, residents were also concerned about employees parking in their neighborhood to avoid paying at the on-campus structure. Alternatives #2 and #3 would create about 3,000 new spaces. Attendees say the current parking structure would be adequate for Swedish, if people used it. The relatively empty parking structure already owned by Swedish just isn’t used, one meeting guest said. Surrounding residents said they often see Swedish employees parking outside their houses, moving their cars every two hours in order to avoid tickets. The residents said this is due to high parking prices at the institution.
It is unclear what effect the new parking structures would have on surrounding traffic, parking enforcement and local pollution, but those issues will likely be addressed in the EIS.
One resident encouraged Swedish to take this opportunity to reduce parking and promote a less car-centric campus.
Members of the Swedish Citizen Advisory Committee, who were selected by the City Council, presented their three plans for potential expansion and featured a presentation on three clients who were saved by the hospital. Abel Bradshaw, a local resident who said she would be displaced if Alternative #3 were implemented, was distressed by the presentation, saying she didn’t believe her house’s existence equates to a lack of care by Swedish.
Swedish also has some well financed backers who would like to see the expansion move forward.
Sabey Corporation in 2002 purchased a 40 percent share of the hospital after contributing $100,000,000 to Swedish. Residents expressed concerns over Sabey’s recent acquisition of neighboring houses and the implications of those purchases. Eileen DeArmon of Sabey addressed these concerns in an email exchange with CDNews:
Sabey is confident about the future of the neighborhood’s commercial and residential areas. Sabey owns two homes on 19th Ave, one home on 16th Avenue and the Spencer Technology building on Cherry Ave and 16th St. As a long-term investor in the Cherry Hill neighborhood, Sabey’s ownership types can take a variety of forms. For example, the Spencer Technology building is medical office space that is a natural complement to the existing Cherry Hill campus. The three homes owned by Sabey have active renters who are good neighbors.
DeArmon also tells CDNews that Sabey will play an active role in the MIMP process. Sabey is a locally-based real estate and investment company.
The committee will hold their next meeting, called a “scoping” meeting, March 21. The meeting will continue to collect public feedback, and those who cannot attend can send on their praise or criticisms to [email protected]. The scoping period will end April 1. You can learn more about the project on the Swedish MIMP website.
Here’s the full plan document: