WICA formally approves Northern Children’s Services renovation plans

By Matthew Grady – Originally published by NewsWorks on October 12, 2012.

The Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association approved Northern Children’s Services plan to renovate an aging structure located on the organization’s Roxborough campus on Wednesday night. 

As reported last month by NewsWorks, Merrick Hall, which was originally built in 1862, will undergo a complete renovation to provide 8,000 square feet for use by residents, many of whom are teenage mothers. Architect and former NCS board president Jamie Wyper estimated last month that the cost of the project would be $4.2 million.

Sixteen rooms, each approximately 150 to 200 sq. ft., will be installed throughout the existing structure’s three floors, and will accommodate one mother and one child. Shared kitchen and bathing facilities will be available, as will a daycare facility for up to 24 children.

A proposed addition to the building will feature four apartments to house homeless teenage mothers with up to two children each in a permanent supportive living environment.

Site improvements would also be made, to include the repurposing of an existing basketball court in a parking lot. Moveable basketball hoops would allow for the retention of recreation possibilities for the space.

Lastly, new roofing, doors and windows would be installed in the existing building, which Wyper noted would utilize “historically appropriate” materials.

‘There is no downside to this’ 

WICA and the Roxborough Development Corporation are designated Registered Community Organizations with respect to NCS, and must bestow their approval for any alterations to the campus, which is zoned residential.

With few substantive changes from NCS’s presentation in September, WICA spared little time in bestowing the rehabilitation plans with its benediction.

Chip Roller, vice-president of WICA, remarked in regard to the proposal, “There’s no downside to this.”

In a phone interview on Friday morning, Bernard Guet, executive director of the Roxborough Development Corporation, said he supports the project.

“Northern Children’s Services is doing a great job helping children and mothers and these plans are very good,” Guet said.

With the approval in hand, representatives of NCS are scheduled to go before the zoning board on Wednesday, October 17 at 2 p.m. Following this hearing, building permits will be applied for, which planners expect to have in hand within a month’s time.

From there, ground could be broken by the conclusion of 2012, and construction is planned to last approximately one year.

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