Community and Adjoining Cancer Center to Benefit from Revitalization of Historic Greenwood Property, Including Benjamin Rush House, In Northwood Section of Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA, PA (December 2008) – The historic, 44-acre Greenwood property along Adams Avenue near Castor Avenue in Northwood is under new management by a group committed to revitalizing the site, including the historically significant but long neglected country house of Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Founding Father, and the surrounding cemetery grounds, it was announced today.
The new manager, Greenwood Holdings LLC, of Philadelphia, has been notifying local stakeholders, including civic associations, elected officials, and historic preservationists, that it has acquired Willow Ridge, Inc., the majority shareholder of the property. Greenwood Holdings is an affiliate of the owner of the adjacent, six-acre site occupied since 2004 by Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Eastern Regional Medical Center. CTCA has invested more than $50 million in rebuilding the former Parkview Hospital property, transforming a shuttered hospital site into a thriving, state-of-the art medical campus with more than 550 employees.
Michael Allietta, an official with Greenwood Holdings, said Ewing Cole, an architectural firm specializing in historic restoration, has been retained to oversee the multi-phase project that reflects CTCA’s continuing commitment to community revitalization. “The initial scope includes reconstruction of the iconic wrought-iron entrance to the 18th century property, repairing surrounding stone walls, installation of new lighting and security systems, major upgrades to the landscaping, and, most notably, renovation of the Rush residence,” he explained. “We will make sure that the long declining Greenwood grounds and historic structures are afforded the same meticulous attention that we’ve given to the CTCA campus.”
Dr. Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Founder of Dickinson College, lived on the property for 10 years in the late 1700s. Greenwood Cemetery was chartered in 1869. The rear, heavily-wooded section of the Greenwood property is adjacent to the parking lot of CTCA, which faces Wyoming Avenue across from Juniata Park Golf Course in Fairmount Park. John McNeil, CEO of CTCA in Philadelphia, said the new Greenwood management, which includes the non-profit Friends of Greenwood Cemetery, promises to be of great benefit for all involved in the neighborhood, from those associated with the cemetery and the Rush House, to the present and future patients and families of CTCA.
“We are honored to be part of this historic neighborhood and to share a boundary with these historic grounds that have for many years deserved a far better fate,” said McNeil. “The Friends of Greenwood, Northwood Civic Association, and our elected officials have been dedicated advocates for a turnaround over the years and they are to be commended. They have come to know us and our philosophy of not only patient care, but community care and compassion. This joint project is a natural extension of what began with a flourish four years ago and has continued to provide numerous benefits. The change for the better has been transformational and promises to be sustaining for generations to come.” He noted that the cancer center began with 158 employees, now has more than 550, and expects to employ more than 1,000 by 2010.
Allietta said Greenwood Holdings will evaluate, on behalf of CTCA, eventual expansion of the medical center onto a portion of the Greenwood property to help meet the future needs of CTCA patients, their families, and other stakeholders. Planners, working with the community, would take into consideration numerous factors including environmental compatibility, building scale, landscape buffers, and traffic management.
City Councilman Darrell Clarke, whose district includes the Greenwood property, said he welcomes the new owner and is excited about the project since Greenwood is a registered Philadelphia Historic Landmark and CTCA is among the area’s largest employers.
“Finally, we can see a bright future for what has been a blighted property in a community that is so passionate about its heritage,” commented Councilman Clarke. “We all look forward to the restoration and to working with the committed community groups, our good neighbors at CTCA, and the City agencies involved on this exciting opportunity.”
Joanne Clare, a Director of Friends of Greenwood, which owns the minority share in the cemetery, also commended the new ownership and its plan for the site. “It is gratifying for all of us to know that we have a majority owner that is respectful of our mission and shares our deep concern for the renovation and preservation of the cemetery. We look forward to working closely with the project architects and planners to ensure that Greenwood is returned to a state of peaceful, secure, accessible, natural splendor; and that the Historic Benjamin Rush House will retain a significant place in the Philadelphia community.”
Barry Howell, Chair of the Northwood Civic Association, added, “This is a win-win beyond our expectations. It is an arrangement that benefits all those directly associated with Greenwood, assures that a sacred and historic site is saved from ruin, and promotes economic vitality in our community.”