Joint library, health and rec center coming to S. Phila.

Artist rendering of the planned Community Health and Literacy Center in South Philadelphia, a project of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, viewed from South Broad and Morris Streets.

 

The city and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia broke ground Thursday on the Community Health and Literacy Center, which will bring adult and pediatric care, a recreation center, and a library together in a single South Philadelphia location.

Smaller, separate versions of the city's Health Center No. 2, the Free Library's South Philadelphia Neighborhood Library, and the DiSilvestro Recreation Center were on the block bounded by South Broad, Morris, and 15th Streets and Castle Avenue; they will be knocked down and incorporated into the new building.

It will also house Children's Hospital's South Philadelphia primary care facility, now three blocks away. The idea for the combined center originated with the pediatric facility's desire for a new space and the city clinic's need for millions of dollars in renovations.

The city will lease the 1.6-acre site for a nominal fee. Construction of the 96,000-square-foot building and outside recreation area will cost $42.5 million, mostly borne by the hospital, with $2.2 million from the city. Several city and library officials said that, to their knowledge, the new center would be the first of its kind. In his remarks at the event, Mayor Nutter called it a model for public and private collaboration.

Children's chief executive Steven Altschuler said offering a library and recreation programs with health care could help improve health in the community and address problems such as obesity and poverty.

The library, to be on the center's first floor, will offer some digital media as well as health information, said Susan Kretsge, deputy mayor for health and opportunity. The library will hire at least one staff member with a health-care speciality and will offer joint services with the recreation and health centers.

The library will lend laptops within the building with the goal of eventually lending laptops and tablets to community members to take home like library books, said Sandra Horrocks, vice president of external affairs for the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. The center is slated for completion in December 2015.

 


lweiss@philly.com