Catching Up with New Courtland

What’s New Courtland been doing at the old Eastern PA Psychiatric Institute on Henry Avenue? And what’s next?

New Courtland building from henry.TWEAKED

We thought about titling this post “An EPPI Update,” but the new owner of the Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute building on Henry Avenue – New Courtland Senior Services – is understandably interested in moving on from associations with the psych ward/juvenile detention facility that once occupied the 15 acre site.

So what’s New Courtland been up to? First a few words about what they are – the company offers both affordable, independent living apartments (which provides healthcare and supportive services for participants with long-term care needs) and services that allow low-income seniors to age in their own homes, rather than institutions.

Eastfallslocal.New Courtland.View_from_Henry_Avenue.TEXT

Back to the site, which has been the focus of many a grousing session at East Falls Community Council after it was sold by the state in 2014. We never quite got the anger with New Courtland – they did place the highest bid with the state for the property and besides, they seem like nice folks – their subsequent presentations haven’t done anything to change that impression.

So naturally when I contacted Robert Theil, Government Affairs Manager at New Courtland, he was only too happy to provide the following update. So far, the company has:

  • Started abatement of the property, which is approximately 75% complete;
  • Started the process of applying for tax credits for the construction of senior housing;
  • Hired an urban planner, Cairone and Kaupp, to assist with the development;
  • Hired a consultant, Real Estate Strategies, who is in the process of completing a feasibility study which will evaluate the surrounding market and demographics. Including traffic count to determine what uses the surrounding neighborhood would support.

He added that “throughout the development process, we will continue to meet and partner with local elected officials, such as Councilman Curtis Jones, Senator Vincent Hughes, and Representative Pam DeLissio, as well as community groups such as those affiliated with the Multi Community Alliance, including East Falls Forward, the East Falls Community Council, and the East Falls Development Corporation. We also plan to work with Abbottsford Homes as well.”

Q&A

A few quick questions for Robert:

When you presented at a zoning meeting at Philadelphia University in May, you mentioned working with the neighborhood. What areas does that include?

There are several neighborhoods surrounding the site (which covers a very broad demo, in terms of age, ethnicity, and income). North Philadelphia, Tioga, Allegheny West, and East Falls, of course.

Would you consider putting market-rate and affordable housing on site?

We haven’t ruled out mixed use, but don’t know exactly what that mix is at the current time. Low-income senior housing and affordable senior housing are part of the picture, with rents that are in the 50% of median income range and below. We’re probably not going to include high-rent condos in this mix, because that doesn’t fit in with our mission.

Are there plans for any community space on the grounds?

The short answer is yes. The question is what type of space. There are several possibilities. We would seriously consider a wellness center. It would have to dovetail with the senior services we provide, so it would be more of an adult activity center than a youth one.

There could also be a roof garden that would offer amazing views of the city. The garden would be part of a green roof system. The garden could also be used as an event location for the community to rent or use. As for the grounds, there’s a lot of green space, which would be ideal for an urban farm shared by all the surrounding communities.

We are open to other suggestions from the neighborhood because we want to be part of the community. That’s a primary goal in all the communities we serve — in our Allegheny facility, for example, we’ve had local groups, such as the Community Action Group hold their meetings there.

Any plans to work with PhilaU or dedicate a portion of the property to housing for students?

We don’t have much experience in student housing, but one thing we have thought about is what’s called intergenerational housing. It’s a movement that gained traction with long-term healthcare providers out west. It combines student and senior housing, to the benefit of both groups. Students would receive a discount to live on the grounds in exchange for volunteering to socialize with seniors and help them with basic services like grocery shopping. It’s mutually beneficial.

An example of intergenerational living, Dutch style.

What’s Next?

New Courtland has been working on financing for future development plans. Robert and other reps also plan to attend community meetings in the coming months, starting with East Falls Forward on September 15th (6:30-8 at the BuLogics Building 3721 Midvale Avenue).

3 Comments

  • John Margerum

    Thanks for the update. I look forward to the site being put to productive use and think that affordable senior housing is a good fit for the area. The idea of intergenerational housing is intriguing and using some of the grounds for a community farm is an excellent idea. I hope the funding can be arranged and will look forward to their next presentation to the community.

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