Lower Merion Denies Request To Demolish Plans To Reconfigure Bryn Mawr Hospital's Campus Call For Removing The Furness-designed Building.

Posted: December 10, 1998

BRYN MAWR — Main Line Health's plan to reconfigure its Bryn Mawr Hospital campus has hit a snag with the rejection of its request to demolish the century-old Gerhard Building.

The gray stone structure, with its gabled roof and arched entry, was designed by the firm of Victorian architect Frank Furness, whose work preservationists are trying to save throughout Lower Merion.

``We have sent a letter out denying the application because that is part of a larger plan that would require land-development approval,'' Robert Duncan, Lower Merion Township's building department director, said yesterday.

A formal development plan for the $50 million reconfiguration project, which would take three years to complete, has not been submitted yet for municipal review.

Asked if the preservation issue was a factor in denying the demolition permit, Duncan put the matter in this context: ``I can't say that it's not a consideration, but I think that would apply regardless of which building they were proposing to take down. . . . One of the things we ask of anyone is, what is your master plan?''

Hospital officials have not decided whether to appeal the township decision, said spokesman Richard Wells.

In November, Main Line Health president Ken Hanover told Lower Merion commissioners that the system planned to demolish three buildings at Bryn Mawr Hospital's campus in order to build a women's health center and possibly a parking garage.

Bryn Mawr, Lankenau and Paoli Memorial Hospitals are part of Main Line Health, which in turn is part of the Jefferson Health System.

Although the development plan's centerpiece is construction of a five-story women's health pavilion, it has been demolition of the 105-year-old Gerhard Building at Bryn Mawr Avenue and County Line Road that has sparked controversy.

The building was Bryn Mawr Hospital's first home.

Wells said that hospital officials want to knock down the Gerhard Building as soon as possible because it is obsolete as a medical facility and costly to maintain.

``We just don't feel like it fits with any community need for health care,'' said Wells.

It has not been used for patient care for decades and would cost $3 million to renovate to meet code requirements for expanded use, according to Hanover.

The goal of the Bryn Mawr Hospital reconfiguration is to concentrate women's health-care services there, rather than having them dispersed at both Bryn Mawr and Lankenau as they are now.

Hospital officials believe the plan would strengthen clinical services and yield the economies that come with improved efficiency.

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