550-unit community discussed for Medical Mission Sisters property

Fox Chase residents held a virtual meeting to discuss a possible project that would bring 550 housing units to the Medical Mission Sisters property at 8400 Pine Road.

Fox Chase Homeowners Association hosted a second virtual meeting about a potential acquisition of the Medical Mission Sisters property at 8400 Pine Road that could result in 549 new housing units being constructed on the site.

The tone of the meeting, which drew more than 100 virtual participants, was negative toward the project presented by Bensalem-based Aquinas Realty Partners. Many neighbors were critical of the project in the comments, expressing concerns over the amount of traffic the project would cause and preservation of the site’s historic use.

The project would feature 135 independent living units, 80 assisted living units, 216 apartment units and 120 carriage home units in a mostly-senior community.

Representatives from Aquinas said they would preserve the Medical Mission Sisters headquarters, the cemetery, the boathouse and as much of the natural flora on the site as possible, though some of it would have to be removed for development. Plans call for the historic barn and other buildings to be removed.

No detailed traffic study has been completed, though neighbors noted it would only add traffic to an already-packed area. FCHA president George Bezanis noted he already avoids Pine Road in the morning due to traffic, and the project would only congest the roads further.

Councilman Brian O’Neill recommended that traffic light triggers that sense when a car is at the intersection would be a must for the project. An idea was floated that the streets will be private and have their own water and sewage, which O’Neill said has been difficult to deal with in his experience.

Currently, the site is part of Medical Mission Sisters’ worldwide mission to help refugees, immigrants, trafficking victims and more.

No vote was taken at the meeting because the property has not been purchased yet.

Len Poncia, president and managing partner at Aquinas, said the real estate development company would preserve and honor the history of the site if they decided to buy it, including honoring the Medical Mission Sisters. They would still be able to use the site as their headquarters, he said.

The development company has performed similar projects in the past. Previously, it redeveloped the old Shriners Hospital at 8400 Roosevelt Blvd. into Wills Eye Surgery Center, adding 75 assisted living beds and 45 sub-acute care hospital beds to the property. It also turned a former Eastern State Hospital in Trevose into a corporate center.

It is currently working on a project that will bring 600 residential units to a 44-acre property where St. Katharine Drexel formed an order of missionary sisters, among other projects. That project will preserve the historic headquarters for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament on the property. ••