The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced on Oct. 2 that an agreement of sale has been reached with Cardinal Crossing Realty Associates (CCRA) of Jenkintown for most of the 213-acre campus of Don Guanella Village in Marple Township, Delaware County.

The sale, subject to expected Vatican approval and satisfaction of contractual conditions, will provide payments totaling $47 million to the archdiocese.

The property, which is mostly undeveloped, is across Sproul Road from SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery and adjacent to Cardinal O’Hara High School.

“It’s the largest single open space property left in Delaware County,” said Deacon Thomas Croke, director of real estate services for the archdiocese. “This is an outstanding project from a real estate perspective. Taking the site from a social and religious purpose to retail and commercial purpose will generate revenue for the township.”

According to the current plans, Deacon Croke explained, there will be retail stores along the Sproul Road frontage and new homes in the center and rear of the property.

More new homes to the right and rear behind Cardinal O’Hara will be built in a terraced fashion to accommodate the slope of the land. There will be more retail and commercial development behind Cardinal O’Hara.

A buffer with trees and fencing will separate the various areas.

The plans also call for the relocation of the O’Hara playing fields and the construction of a bridge over a small creek on the property so that students can access the fields, according to Deacon Croke.

Don Guanella Village (DGV) was established in 1960 by Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Servants of Charity as a residential program for young men and boys with cognitive and developmental disabilities. In 1976, as the original residents aged, the CK Center (more recently Cardinal Krol Center) opened on the campus to provide residential pastoral care, rehabilitative services, educational programs, job training and activities for men with developmental disabilities.

More recently in accordance with current best practices for care, working with various city council and state agencies including Pennsylvania’s Office of Developmental Programs, the decision was made to move away from an institutional setting to smaller community-based group homes.

In October 2012 representatives of CSS and DGV met with family members of the residents to discuss these plans, and in the first year 30 men moved to group homes and 16 men to nearby Divine Providence Village, which up until recently housed only developmentally disabled girls and women.
Since July another 38 residents have begun moving into group homes.

Twenty-seven men who are too medically fragile for group home care will remain on a smaller campus to be built, assisted by state funding, on several acres carved out of the property which is to be sold.

According to an archdiocesan statement at the time of the sale’s announcement, “The process of constructing a campus for these medically fragile residents will be extremely complex and the first priority is the safety and welfare of these men.”

Some of the men of this group are now elderly after having spent most of their life at Don Guanella Village and the Cardinal Krol Center.

“We appreciate the support of the men, families, staff and the State Office of Developmental Programs as we move into the second year of our plan to move to smaller community-based homes for the men,” said James Amato, deputy secretary for Catholic Social Services. “Our mission inspired by St. Louis Guanella to best serve the men is a constant, while our adaptability to changing service delivery models is a necessity.”

Once the move is finished, 111 residents will have been relocated to a dozen small group homes, some on the grounds of parishes or other existing archdiocesan facilities plus the new mini campus.

“Numerous offers for the property on Sproul Road were evaluated,” said Walter D’Alessio, chair of the Archdiocesan Real Estate Advisory Committee. “It’s critical to understand that important factors beyond price were considered in evaluating these offers. Cardinal Crossing Properties proposed a deal with a comprehensive development plan, absent of significant contingencies that appropriately considered the expectations of local government agencies.

“They also expressed willingness to close the transaction in a timely fashion and they will work within the context of the challenges being faced by Catholic Social Services. The committee felt that the offer presented by Cardinal Crossing was the strongest one received when all factors are considered.”