Park land is one of the most valuable commodities to city neighborhoods.
Burholme Park in Northeast Philadelphia, a 69-acre former 19th century estate, is no different, serving as a green pasture along Cottman Avenue for residents to escape the bustle of urban life.
But at a time when jobs are scarce and city coffers are dry, 19 acres of the park presents a perfect opportunity for neighboring Fox Chase Cancer Center, who wanted to expand its grounds, and in turn create a 1,000-plus jobs.
Not so fast.
A ruling two weeks ago by Pennsylvania’s second-highest court essentially ended the cancer center’s $1 billion dream — unless it appeals to the state Supreme Court and wins. Fox Chase has made no decision yet about its next move.
“We fervently believe that it is in the best interest of all current and potential cancer patients to pursue all reasonable options for expansion, and we plan to diligently explore these options,” center spokesman Timothy Spreitzer said in a statement.
The center’s loss, however, was a gain for local parks in all of Pennsylvania, according to open space advocate Mary Tracy, whose group, SCRUB aided residents in the years-long court battle.
“In these harsh economic times, you have some municipalities looking at park land as an asset to sell,” Tracy said. “This court proclaimed that you just can’t do that. You can’t sell, lease or give away [park land] for non-recreational use.”