Group Proposes To Use Byberry As A Nursing Home For Veterans

Posted: April 23, 1989

The first formal proposal for future use of buildings and grounds at Philadelphia State Hospital will go into the review process this week.

Bound volumes of proposals for a veterans' nursing home, supporting statements and endorsements from interested groups and the community are scheduled to be hand-delivered to Gov. Casey, to the consultants studying the 398-acre site and to the citizens' advisory committee working on the project.

The delivery was timed for this week, in advance of the next meeting of the advisory committee at 2 p.m. Friday in the office of the City Planning

Commission, 1515 Market St.

Spurred by reports that Veterans for a Delaware Valley Nursing Home would submit a written proposal for Byberry, a number of other organizations interested in the property also began preparing similar proposals.

When the proposals have been reviewed, consultants will interview the groups' representatives, according to Vincent B. Malatesta, chairman of the veterans' group. Malatesta reported on the process to delegates from a coalition of veterans' organizations at an April 13 strategy session at the American Legion Post on Old Newtown Road in Bustleton.

Among the questions the groups will face is whether the hospital buildings are suitable for the uses they propose.

"Buildings for nursing homes are highly specialized," Malatesta said. ''We'll need to get an architect in there to inspect and give us recommendations.

"Things are falling into place," he said. "I'm well satisfied with the way things are going. We've been at this for a long time."

The coalition, which was incorporated in 1983, came together out of a conviction of need, he said.

Reading from a thick book containing the group's proposal, Malatesta said that, ideally, the organization would like approval to use four buildings and their surrounding grounds.

The proposal calls for one building to be used as a nursing home, another for skilled and custodial nursing care, a third for a day-care center for veterans and a fourth for a walk-in clinic to help patients avoid having to travel to the VA hospital in West Philadelphia for out-patient treatment.

The proposal also seeks room for relocation of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains, an interfaith organization on Temple University's main campus, and for a veterans multiservice center.

The proposal contains letters of support from the Somerton Civic Association and from two of Philadelphia's Knights of Columbus organizations.

All the support groups emphasized the distance involved in trips to veterans' nursing homes in Spring City and Erie.

"With more than 365,000 veterans in this area, it's ridiculous to think that we don't have a place of our own here," Malatesta said. "It seems to me that now is the time."

Proposals will be reviewed by the advisory committee and its consultants, the architecture and planning firm of Killinger Kise Franks Straw. The consulting firm holds a $150,000 contract to study the 160-acre hospital site and the 238-acre Benjamin Rush State Park, across the street on Roosevelt Boulevard.

The consultants will make a recommendation to the advisory committee, which will make its recommendation to the governor.

The hospital is to close in September or later.

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