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Expansion, Renovation Planned at Northern Children's Services

Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association indicated it would support current plan.

The newly dubbed  may also add new and renovated buildings to its Wissahickon campus.

Officials Wednesday from the former Northern Home for Children shared plans to build four new apartment units within Merrick Hall, add an elevator, increase parking spaces and potentially restore an historically appropriate wrap-around porch.

The Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association heard the preliminary presentation and voiced approval in the project's early stages. Located at 5301 Ridge Ave., the campus that houses young mothers and their children—in addition to administrative offices—is zoned as residential, meaning any updates need approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Formerly an orphanage, Northern Home acquired the property in 1927. In recent years, the group shifted to become a broader human services organization, with afterschool, behavioral, and young mother opportunities. Earlier this year,  itself to Northern Children's Services.

Architect Jamie Wyper presented the plan, which will provide independent living quarters for young mothers and their children. Merrick Hall, largely vacant, will be renovation internally and externally, with two additions planned. In the rear, a two-story structure with two apartments on each level is proposed. On the side, NCS wants to construct a three-story entry lobby with elevator and stairs.

Additionally, 15 parking spaces will be added to the current basketball court—though the court will remain for after-hours usage.

Due to the campus's slopped nature, nearby properties won't really notice a change. Additionally, the added park more or less accommodates cars that currently park on the lawn. 

The only area the neighbors disagreed with NCS on involved signage along Ridge Avenue. The group floated a test balloon, which featured a 20-foot long, red sign at the campus' entrance. Civic members felt it too large and preferred wrought iron letting, similar to what William Penn Charter School has in East Falls. 

For the most part, the civic members were on board.

"I've been inside there, and you're right, it's pretty bad. It will probably eventually implode on itself," WICA Vice President Chip Roller said. "I think it's a good idea myself. It'll be, at worst, a benign impact to the neighborhood."

Wyper also discussed restoring a porch around the hall—which existed when Merrick was first built—but wasn't sure if budget money for the $4.2 million project would cover it.

NCS hopes to receive a zoning refusal over the next week and officially receive WICA's endorsement soon.

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