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Children Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) broke ground on Thursday afternoon on the Community Health and Literacy Center at Broad and Morris streets. Pictured from left are, Brian Hudson, executive director, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency; John Grady, president of Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation; Madeline Bell, CHOP president and CEO; Mayor Michael Nutter; Courtney Simmons, oncology student; Dr. Steven M. Altschuler, CHOP chief executive officer; and City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. — ABDUL R. SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

An innovative healthcare facility is coming to South Philadelphia.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the city of Philadelphia hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking on Thursday afternoon for the Community Health and Literacy Center, a new facility that will provide healthcare, literacy and recreational services in one location for children and families.

When completed in December 2015, the new center at Broad and Morris streets will house the CHOP Care Network, Primary Care, South Philadelphia practice; City of Philadelphia’s Health Center 2; Free Library’s South Philadelphia Neighborhood Library and the DiSilvestro Recreation Center.

Officials touted the project as a national model for public-private collaboration. The center is a partnership between CHOP and the city.

“CHOP is building the Community Health and Literacy Center on land that is owned by the city. Together we are creating a beautiful new space where children and families can access important health care and literacy services,” Dr. Steven M. Altschuler, chief executive officer of CHOP, said during the event. “Here at the Community Health and Literacy Center, we will partner with the city to offer medical care, wellness services and literacy programs to families in one convenient location.

“We believe that this comprehensive, collaborative approach will lead to better health outcomes and improve the quality of life for children and families.”

A South Philadelphia native was on hand to offer insight about receiving treatment from CHOP physicians. Courtney Simmons, 19, was treated for bone cancer at CHOP and received primary care beginning at six weeks old at CHOP’s Care Network, Primary Care, South Philadelphia.

The compassionate care Simmons received from CHOP physicians has led her to pursue a career in pediatric oncology. She is now in her second year of study at St. Joseph’s University.

“Post-graduation, I’ll use my nursing degree to become a pediatric oncology nurse at CHOP in the hope of giving back to children the holistic care that I received as a patient — in the hope of providing a safe space and love that the CHOP primary care family provided for me,” Simmons said. “Because of my diagnosis, I know that I will become an oncology nurse. I know that I want to help kids with cancer and I know that I can because I can relate to them.”

CHOP officials, elected leaders and community members also turned out for the ceremonial groundbreaking. Mayor Michael Nutter highlighted the unique aspects of the partnership between the city and CHOP.

“This is in fact a one of a kind partnership that is creating a quite innovative approach to increasing our public health and a focus on our children and community in a variety of ways,” Nutter said during the ceremony. “We don’t know of another project like this anywhere in the United States of America. This is the first in the country and folks are looking at this project all across America. The city shares CHOP’s commitment to ensuring that every child in our city has access to quality healthcare and to addressing health conditions that, in many instances and in many neighborhoods, disproportionately affect children who grow up in urban environments.”

Project construction will be led by Perryman Construction, a local African-American company owned by Angelo Perryman.

“We’re making history with this project,” Nutter said. “It is historic in terms of this project and that Angelo’s firm is the lead on this project.”

City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson lauded city and CHOP officials for their vision in bringing the new project to South Philadelphia.

Officials said the unique public-private effort originated as a solution to the health, educational and recreational needs in the community.

Under the agreement, the city will provide a lease on the site at a nominal fee to CHOP along with $2.2 million to support construction. CHOP will develop the land, which includes construction of a 96,000 square foot facility and outdoor space at a total cost of $42.5 million. The project is supported by private donors, hospital operating revenue and $33 million in new market tax credits provided through the Chase Community Equity LLC, Chase New Markets Corporation, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, City First Bank of D.C. and Commonwealth Cornerstone Group, Ltd.

The center will be located in the city block bordered by South Broad Street, South 15th Street, Morris Avenue and Castle Avenue. The 1.59 acres of land will consist of a three-story building on the eastern side and a new playground on the western side. The first floor of the new building will be dedicated to the library, recreation center, lobby area and covered parking. The second floor will house the City of Philadelphia Health Center 2. The CHOP Care Network, Primary Care, South Philadelphia office will relocate from nearby St. Agnes Hospital to the third floor of the facility.

Contact staff writer Ayana Jones at (215) 893-5747 or ajones@phillytrib.com

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