Chestnut Hill College (CHC) has proposed a $500 million expansion of both their SugarLoaf and main campuses. For the last 18 months, a negotiating group comprised of members of the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA), Chestnut Hill Business Association (CHBA), Friends of Wissahickon, Chestnut Hill Historical Society, as well as representatives from neighbors surrounding the properties, has been convening with the hopes of forming an agreement on the proposed plans.
The CHCA Executive Committee met on Thursday to discuss the progress of the project. The negotiating group’s chairman, Larry McEwen, an architect and co-chair of the CHCA’s Design Review Committee, led the discussion. McEwen says the group has spent countless hours looking over the college’s master plan for the proposal.
In the initial plan a parking lot consisting of 150 parking spaces, additional dormitories, and a performing arts center were going to be placed on the SugarLoaf campus. After neighbors voiced concerns over potential traffic issues, the plan was changed and the projects allocated to the main campus.
Remaining proposals for the SugarLoaf campus include a promenade and a parking garage. At two stories high, the garage will mostly be underground, and a wall will block vehicle headlights from disturbing neighboring properties.
The City Planning Commission has approved the master plan, and now CHC is working to gain an Institutional Development District (IDD) status for the two parts of land that make up its campus. Gaining an IDD would effectively solidify plans, moving the project forward and eliminating the ability for community amendments. The college has already postponed its application for the IDD several times to accommodate negotiations, but now finds it necessary to move forward.
“By the 16th of June, the IDD could be passed in city council,” McEwen said, adding that Donna Reed Miller had presented it to city council earlier that day.
Despite efforts already taken by CHC to consider all concerns voiced by community organizations and neighboring citizens, many voices still ring in opposition to the proposals. McEwen said that neighboring homeowners are currently consulting with lawyers in an effort to further delay the project.
A community meeting has been organized by neighbors surrounding the college property to discuss the proposals further. They will meet on May 16 at 7:30pm at St. Paul’s Church, 22 East Chestnut Hill Avenue.