Some members of the Northwood and Frankford communities are pushing back about a proposed city district health center planned for the property at Friends Hospital, 4641 Roosevelt Blvd.
Leading the effort are the Northwood Civic Association, St. James Lutheran Church, St. Mark’s Church Frankford and the nonprofit Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and executive director Paul Steinke.
Those groups and some individuals met Monday night at St. James to plan strategy.
“We’re thinking of what to do next. We haven’t decided,” said Northwood Civic Association vice president Terry Heiser.
Right now, the Northeast has only one district health center, at 2230 Cottman Ave.
The city is planning two more, relatively close to one another. One will open across the street from the Frankford Transportation Center, in what was once Penn Fruit. The site will also feature a new grocery store and housing.
The other proposed center is planned for the 100-acre Friends property and would include demolition of a 19th-century Victorian cottage, “Lawnside,” built in 1859. Some 30,000 people would use the center per year.
Both Friends and Lawnside are designated national historic landmarks.
The Philadelphia Historical Commission has approved demolition of the 174-year-old building and construction of a two-story, 55,000-square-foot structure.
Opponents of the plan unsuccessfully appealed to the Board of Licenses and Inspections Review on Oct. 12. Testifying at that hearing were Heiser, Northwood Civic Association president Mari Carrasquillo and Cristina Mancini, senior warden at St. Mark’s.
City Councilwoman Quetcy Lozada and state Rep. Jason Dawkins are in favor of the plan. State Sen. Tina Tartaglione and Rep. Joe Hohenstein were initially in favor, but have withdrawn their support in writing. Mayoral candidate David Oh is also opposed.
All agree that Lawnside is in poor condition – trees are growing through the floor – but opponents of the health center say the Scattergood Foundation, which runs Friends, has the money to restore and repurpose the building. Even if the center opens, opponents say, it can be built elsewhere on the grounds.
As for the health center being on the Friends site, opponents cite several reasons for why they are against it, including a disruption of the tranquil and serene property.
In addition, they say the site is not centrally located in the Northeast, especially considering another center is planned for Frankford Avenue and Pratt Street. Frankford and Northwood are more of a gateway to the Northeast, they say, not the heart of it.
Zoning overlays in the 6th and 10th Councilmanic districts, which cover most of the Northeast, prevent new medical uses. Both proposed centers are in Lozada’s 7th district.
Some worry the Scattergood Foundation will put in a safe injection site, but Juniata Park Civic Association president Kate Clarke – at the meeting as a neutral observer – said that is unlikely due to lawsuits, legislation and other obstacles.
Opponents say trees will be cut down, though the city says more will be planted.
Heiser called heavily traveled Roosevelt Boulevard the “most dangerous highway in the state.”
Half of the clients are expected to drive to the site, and the city will be expanding off-street parking.
The other half would take public transportation.
“They would have to cross 12 lanes,” Heiser said.
The city said 44 sites were considered before it settled on Friends. The Preservation Alliance has been unsuccessful in getting that list, and opponents might seek the information through the state open records law.
“We deserve transparency,” Carrasquillo said.
The Rev. Paul Andell, longtime pastor at St. James, said the Kenney administration disrespects neighborhoods, citing Chinatown and Northwood. He also wants Lozada to do a better job of representing the area. He said the city should focus on a more pressing issue, such as the decline of the Frankford Avenue business corridor.
Andell also said the Philadelphia Historical Commission erred in ruling that Lawnside be demolished, and that its name is a misnomer.
“They have no business being the Historical Commission,” he said.
The Preservation Alliance has hired attorney Dan McElhatton, a former Northwood resident and councilman, for a possible court appeal.
Opponents are also considering making lawn signs and reaching out to neighbors through mailings and door-to-door knocking. They will meet again Monday night at St. James. ••