Neighbors demand consultation in sale of former East Falls psychiatric institute

New CourtLand Senior Services’ apparent $3 million bid to purchase the former Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute property from the Pennsylvania General Services Administration was the topic of much discussion at this week’s East Falls Community Council meeting.

Council President Barnaby Wittels characterized the state’s decision to entertain bids as having “completely abrogated everything we were led to understand as a community” concerning how the sale and future development of the property located at 3200 Henry Ave. would be handled.

The timeline

Members of a multi-community alliance, including East Falls, Nicetown and the Ridge, Allegheny, Hunting Park Civic Association (RAH) said they were assured several years ago that they would be consulted by the state concerning any future plans for the site.

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This assurance, they say, came as part of an informal agreement allowing the property to temporarily house the Philadelphia Youth Study Center. Those consultations were to have come once the property was returned to the market by GSA.

The Youth Study Center moved to East Falls in 2008 while work began on a new facility at 48th and Haverford. The ribbon was cut opening that new juvenile-detention facility in Dec. 2012.

According to community member Meg Greenfield, work done by a group of residents to create a development plan for the site has so far been ignored completely.

Greenfield and Wittels both maintained the community desires, and development-plan recommendation holds, that the EPPI site be made suitable for mixed-use redevelopment through a combination of partial demolition and adaptive reuse.

The property had been up for sealed bidding last year.

“Situated in the East Falls Section of Philadelphia, only minutes away from Center City, the property presents some very attractive land development opportunities as it is conveniently located near Roosevelt Boulevard and the Schuylkill Expressway with good access to SEPTA bus and rail service,” read the description.

“The last thing anyone wanted was another institution there of any kind,” said Greenfield.

Calls to NewCourtland seeking comment on the bid were not immediately returned Thursday.

NewsWorks will follow up on this story.

Other business

Also announced at Monday’s meeting were plans to cease operations under the current management of the East Falls community newspaper, The Fallser.

Julie Camburn, publisher and managing editor of the paper, informed the meeting that the December edition will be her last.

It is not clear at this point what plans there are for the paper to continue publication.

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