The new owners of the sprawling site at 3232 Henry Avenue — the former Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute – don't have a formal plan yet for its transition into a campus for senior care and affordable housing.
But Gail Kass, president and CEO of NewCourtland Senior Services, said the nonprofit organization will formulate a plan with the surrounding communities over the next year, and she's open to suggestions.
The groups representing neighbors have "a lot of energy and have expressed that energy to legislators. They've had worries about that site. We will get input from them and share what we're doing. But there is a huge amount to do before we even get to that point," Kass said in an interview with NewsWorks in late March.
Immediate concerns for NewCourtland, which purchased the site from the state for $2.1 million last fall, include $2 million in asbestos remediation in the mid-century buildings that cover 14 acres. "Just shutting down the buildings — turning off the heating, draining the pipes — costs a fortune," Kass said.
"My dream would be that when we're done, we'll have housing for seniors, a new LIFE (Living Independently for Elders) Center, and some kind of programming, commercial or otherwise, that will link that parcel to the community," she said. "I don't know yet what that looks like: commercial shopping, movies, a gym, gardens — it's all up for grabs."
The EPPI property had been part of the state hospital system from 1949 to the 1970s, when operations were transferred to the Medical College of Pennsylvania, which continued to the use the main building as a psychiatric facility until 2006. The city took over the property from 2008 to 2013 for use as the Youth Study Center. The site then went up for bid for redevelopment, but failed to find a buyer until March 2014, when New Courtland stepped in.
The surrounding communities, meanwhile, had been working with local representatives on studies for the best use of the property. Their hope was that new tenants would bring new retail stores and other economic growth to the area.
State Rep. Pamela DeLissio has said there are models that can serve both NewCourtland and the neighboring communities, including Stadium Place in Baltimore, which provides long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, and mixed income housing for seniors, as well as retail stores, a computer lab and, other amenities. The old EPPI site, DeLissio has said, "warrants some master planning."