Point Breeze: Residents Raise Concerns Over CHOP Renovation of Free Library

chop neighbors
Neighbors of the soon-to-be construction site attended the meeting on Monday evening to express their concerns surrounding the project.
chop neighbors
Neighbors of the soon-to-be construction site attended the meeting on Monday evening to express their concerns surrounding the renovation of the South Philadelphia branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The South Philadelphia Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia will be renovated soon as a community contribution from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) but it seems not all residents in the area are ecstatic about the plans.

On Oct. 28, the third in a series of community meetings regarding the plans for renovation was led by Doug Carney, Senior Vice President of CHOP Facilities, Services, Real Estate and Construction. He spoke to a room full of concerned neighbors in District Health Center 2, which sits adjacent to the Free Library on Broad Street at Morris.

community center model
A model for the community center was on display during the meeting to show the residents what the new building will look like.

“The front [of the building] would be more commercial, that faces on Broad Street,” Carney explained at the meeting. “If you’ve seen our Karabots Center or any of the other projects that CHOP has done more recently, you see that we’re trying to introduce some color into the vernacular of the architecture, which reflects our theme.”

CHOP has partnered with both the City of Philadelphia and a currently undisclosed benefactor to fund the plans for the renovation. The full plan, which is being spearheaded by architects at Venturi Scott Brown Architecture, will entail a demolition of the current site, resulting in a brand new complex including a new library and health center as well as a playground and basketball court outside the facility.

The open nature of the meeting allowed for Carney to articulate CHOP’s vision for the complex while still opening the floor up to discussion. As expected, neighbors raised concern over after-hours security of the playground as well as what will happen with walls existing on the site, one of which has stood there since the 1860s. A few neighbors also wanted to discuss concerns over the model’s aesthetics with the architects present at the meeting.

carney and plans
Doug Carney and his team of architects brought plans to the meeting to clearly point out the relative sizing of the separate entities.

However, residents also voiced apprehension about effects from the construction process such as vibration, noise levels and safety both during construction as well as security maintenance once the complex is completed.

“I think it [the meeting] speaks to the Philadelphia process that seeks broad based input, which is pretty unique,” Carney said. “I thought we got great input, good follow-up on the things that had been said before and a couple of new items that are things we will have to think about.”

Fred Nagle, a resident of the area for more than 35 years, lives just a block and a half from the site. More than any other sort of issue, Nagle fears parking and maintenance issues will only increase during the construction process.

“Parking is terrible,” Nagle said. “It’s brutal. And who’s going to plow the sidewalk around the building? The city sure doesn’t. If there’s two feet of snow, it stays there.”

Some residents suggested they look into obtaining preferred parking permits to ensure a degree of parking stability for those living in the area affected by the construction process. Plans for the site project a start date for the demolition early in April 2014, and architects believe the process as a whole will take 18 to 20 months.

south philly library
The South Philadelphia branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia is planned to be vacated by early March 2014 to prepare for demolition.

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