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Bill that would allow medical offices to rise from 8th and Walnut garage passes out of committee

Zoning legislation that allows a 12-story, 153,000 square foot medical office tower to be constructed atop an existing parking garage at 8th and Walnut streets was today moved out of City Council’s Rules Committee and heads to full council for a vote.

The garage was constructed with the intent of building apartments on top. Changes in the market led developer Liberty Property Trust to propose medical offices instead. The office tower would be leased in its entirety by the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Representatives of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and other medical facilities testified that they had concerns that the tenants of the new office building would eat up parking space that their facilities use, and that patients might be confused about which building to go to and where to park with so many medical facilities in one place.

A representative of the St. James apartments said residents there are concerned about the sight of the roof-top mechanicals and an encroachment toward their building.

Councilman-At-Large James Kenney said none of the issues seemed insurmountable, and all those who testified agreed. Kenney said this growth in one of the city’s core sectors was a good kind of problem to have.

First District Councilman Frank DiCicco, who introduced the legislation, said that many of the residents’ concerns were already being addressed.

A representative of the Parkway Corporation said that there was enough parking for everyone nearby, and hospital representatives said they just needed assurances of this.

No one who testified asked that the committee hold the bill, but they did ask for, and receive, a favor that gives them an extra week to work the various issues out amongst themselves.

The proposed legislation cannot be adopted before May 26. Bills must be read twice before council can take an adoption vote. The committee commonly suspends the rules of council to allow a bill’s first reading to concur at the meeting at which it is reported out of committee. The rules were purposefully not suspended to give representatives of the hospitals and the St. James apartments more time to hash out their differences.

Contact the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

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