Senior living, hotel to replace St. Charles Borromeo Seminary

The Upper side of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. (Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary)

The Upper side of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. (Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary)

Main Line Health plans to redevelop a 73-acre seminary in Wynnewood to build a health and wellness campus of senior living facilities, a hotel, and medical offices over the next 10 to 12 years.

The campus will be on the site of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, which dates back to the 19th century and hosted Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II. The seminary will move to a site by Gwynedd Mercy University in 2024. After a 2016 lawsuit with another developer that ended with a settlement, Main Line Health bought the site in 2019 for $43.5 million.

Part of the reason Main Line Health needed the campus is because the system is growing, including nearby Lankenau Medical Center, which is outgrowing its space, said JoAnn Magnatta, a senior vice president at Main Line Health who has overseen the operations of its facilities for more than 20 years. For example, she points to the recently developed Lankenau Heart Pavilion, which is at times full.

Architectural renderings the Main Line Health’s planned new campus. (Courtesy of Main Line Health)

“Within the past two years … we’ve tripled the size of our [emergency department.] And within the first three months, that space was completely filled … we’re experiencing growth there that we know we need to address.”

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She also said that with hospitals closing in the region recently, and patients coming in with serious illnesses, the health system will need to have more inpatient beds. The new campus will have around 650,000 square feet. That can free up some space at other Main Line Health sites. The system is looking into redevelopment at its hospitals for more inpatient services.

Magnatta said there is a particular need for housing and other services for seniors. Main Line Health will run the medical services, and they plan to work with a partner company to develop and run the senior living facility, and another company to run an on-site hotel. She said patients travel for surgeries and other medical needs, and a hotel could be a place for family members to stay nearby.

“This is a 10- to 12-year development project, but we’re looking 25, 30 years down the road,” she said.

Architectural renderings of the Main Line Health’s planned new campus. (Courtesy of Main Line Health)

At the same time, this lets the almost two-century-old St. Charles Borromeo Seminary move into a smaller space that’s better suited to its programs now, said Bishop Timothy Senior, the rector at the seminary.

“As grand and wonderful as it is, it was built for a different era, a different age, a different style of seminary formation than what we have today,” Senior said. “The mission and the work of the seminary is actually more important than maintaining the buildings. And … that has gotten beyond us and has been now for quite a while.”

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He said the seminary continues to thrive, and will have 149 join its program this year, which is a large group compared to other Catholic seminaries in the U.S. But it is much smaller than it used to be; Senior remembers when there would be 400-500 students.

St. Martin’s Chapel at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. (Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary)

He said that part of the change is that their program now is much more intensive, personalized, and disciplined.

“We have a tremendous emphasis on human formation to ensure that the men who will become priests are going to be effectively mature … at every level,” he said. “The church … has been through a great deal of tragedy because of the crisis of sexual abuse. And we have to make sure that those who are entrusted with this very, very important role of being a priest are ready for that and able to handle it.”

He said he is excited to break ground on the new campus by Gwynedd Mercy University next January, and hopefully open there in August 2024.

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