Hospi­tal faces wreck­ing ball

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By CARL ROTEN­BERG

NOR­RIS­TOWN — An un­named de­vel­oper has been se­lected to build se­nior hous­ing and adult day care ser­vices at the va­cant Mont­gomery Hos­pi­tal on Pow­ell Street, and plans for de­mo­li­tion of the hos­pi­tal build­ing are mov­ing for­ward.

“We have an en­tity that has been se­lected for the re­de­vel­op­ment of the hos­pi­tal site. The agree­ment of sale has not been signed, but it is be­ing ne­go­ti­ated now,” said Rich Mon­tal­bano, the vice pres­i­dent and project ex­ec­u­tive of Einstein Health­care Net­work (EHN), which owns the va­cant build­ing. “Their plan is they will de­mol­ish all the hos­pi­tal build­ings on the site and build se­nior hous­ing and se­nior ser­vices like adult day care.”

A re­quest for pro­posal for the de­mo­li­tion work went out last year and seven com­pa­nies sub­mit­ted pro­pos­als, he said. The de­mo­li­tion con­tract and a sched­ule

for de­mo­li­tion has not been fi­nal­ized yet.

The med­i­cal of­fice build­ing and park­ing garage at 1330 Pow­ell St. will re­main.

The March 16 end­ing for a lease by AT&T Mo­bil­ity to lo­cate cell phone an­ten­nas on the roof of the seven-story hos­pi­tal build­ing prompted AT&T Mo­bil­ity of­fi­cials to ask the Nor­ris­town Zon­ing Hear­ing Board Tues­day night for vari­ances to in­stall a tem­po­rary cell on wheels (COW) and an 80-foot tower in the hos­pi­tal park­ing lot. That hear­ing was con­tin­ued to 7 p.m., Feb. 13.

At­tor­ney Ni­cholas Cuce Jr., rep­re­sent­ing AT&T Mo­bil­ity, said Einstein Med­i­cal Center Mont­gomery (EMCM) of­fi­cials asked the wire­less car­rier and two other co-lo­cated wire­less car­ri­ers to re­move their equip­ment from the Mont­gomery Hos­pi­tal roof by March 15. Mon­tal­bano said AT&T Mo­bil­ity’s lease would end March 15, and four other cell phone car­ri­ers were co-lo­cated on the hos­pi­tal roof.

Einstein Med­i­cal Center Mont­gomery merged with Mont­gomery Hos­pi­tal sev­eral years ago and moved the hos­pi­tal staff to the 146-bed, $350 mil­lion, hos­pi­tal in East Nor­ri­ton in Septem­ber 2012. The build­ing has re­mained va­cant while a multi-dis­ci­plinary task force at­tempted to se­cure a vi­able de­vel­oper to ren­o­vate and re­use the build­ing. The Nor­ris­town Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety has posted an online pe­ti­tion aimed at block­ing the hos­pi­tal build­ing de­mo­li­tion on www.change.org.

“Save His­toric Mont­gomery Hos­pi­tal! Please don’t al­low the de­struc­tion of one of Nor­ris­town’s ar­chi­tec­tural trea­sures,” the pe­ti­tion says. “Se­nior hous­ing would be en­hanced by us­ing the ex­ist­ing 1934 struc­ture in­stead of tear­ing it down.”

“The owner (Einstein) and de­vel­oper (Elon of the Alt­man Group) have de­cided to de­mol­ish the hos­pi­tal and re­place it with four-story se­nior hous­ing. The de­mo­li­tion of such a large build­ing so close to houses and busi­ness is dan­ger­ous and un­nec­es­sary. The suc­cess of Rittenhouse School as se­nior apart­ments proves that such a con­ver­sion of a his­toric build­ing is not only vi­able but prof­itable,” the pe­ti­tion states.

A pro­posal from Mis­sion First for se­nior hous­ing in the build­ing, an adult day care ser­vice and a chil­dren’s day care, never got off the ground be­cause it was de­pen­dent on state sub­si­dies.

Mon­tal­bano said hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials “have been meet­ing with mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials” about the pro­posed se­nior hous­ing project.

“It has been men­tioned there would be re­tail but that has not been fi­nal­ized yet,” Mon­tal­bano said. “All of that will have to ul­ti­mately be pre­sented to Nor­ris­town.”

He was “not at lib­erty to talk about the se­nior hous­ing de­tails,” he said.

Nor­ris­town coun­cil Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Cald­well said the de­vel­oper will have to se­cure a zon­ing change from the health care zone to al­low res­i­den­tial hous­ing for the el­derly.

Mon­tal­bano em­pha­sized that no sched­ule had been adopted for the de­mo­li­tion work. Mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials said they had not yet re­ceived ap­pli­ca­tions for a de­mo­li­tion per­mit.

Fol­low Carl Roten­berg on Twit­ter @ Car­lWriter.

Times Her­ald File Photo

The va­cant Mont­gomery Hospi­tal on Pow­ell Street, Norristown, is slated for de­mo­li­tion un­der plans by the Ein­stein Health Care Net­work to build se­nior hous­ing and adult day care ser­vices on the site.

Times Her­ald File Photo

Mont­gomery Hospi­tal in Norristown.

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