Earlier this month, YIMBY shared the news of topping-out of the Jefferson Specialty Care Pavilion at 1101 Chestnut Street in Market East, Center City, one of the most prominent buildings currently rising into the Philadelphia skyline. Designed by Ennead Architects and Stantec and developed by National Real Estate Development, with LF Driscoll and Hunter Roberts joint venture acting as contractors, the building comprises the final component of the mixed-use, multi-block East Market development. As of February 1st, the steel-framed structure has officially reached its final height of 364 feet and 23 stories (19 stories if excluding mechanical floors). The $762 million medical facility will be the single largest real estate investment in Jefferson’s nearly 200-year history and will offer ample cutting-edge equipment. Today YIMBY offers a detailed overview of the momentous event.
The ceremony took place around noon, in a brisk February chill with temperature hovering around 35 degrees. The festivities took place at the site of the future plaza to the west of the tower. The hard-hat-donning crowd was shielded from the elements by a roomy tent, sited next to the ceremonial beam adorned with signatures and topped with the customary flag and a pine tree.
In order to maintain social distancing, the event was split into two back-to-back ceremonies, each one featuring a roster of speakers (with some present at both ceremonies) and two separate beams, which were raised to the structure’s pinnacle and mounted at the top level within approximately an hour of one another. Moreover, both ceremonies were broadcast live via Zoom to a virtual audience, so those that preferred to stay at home or in the office, as well as those that were too distant to attend in person, could join in the festivities.
The ceremony took place to the west of the under-construction tower, at the future site of a plaza that will anchor the south end of the pedestrian-only Locust Walk promenade. The event took place in a large covered tent, which shielded in-person attendees from 38-degree temperatures. Despite the chill in the air, the celebration atmosphere was positively warm and jubilant, with luminaries taking turn on the podium to express their joy at the milestone event and gratitude to their fellow team members and everyone that made the project possible.
Speeches were given by a wide variety of leaders and figures related to the project, representing the broadest scope of the teamwork that made the Specialty Care pavilion possible. The speakers ranged from municipal and Congressional politicians to medical doctors, heads of real estate, steelworkers behind the literal nuts and bolts of the structure, and many more. Below we highlight excerpts from the passion-fueled, gratitude-filled speeches that rung from the podium on this special day.
For clarity’s sake, we combined both speeches into a single narrative, as some speakers were present at only one of the two events ant others at both. As such, the speaker order also does not precisely follow how the event’s exact chronology.
James F. Kenney, Philadelphia Mayor
The topping-out ceremony was attended by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. The Mayor expressed gratitude to the development team, noting that the project was on track “despite two challenging years,” which is a “testament to the team’s hard work.”
“The City of Philadelphia is grateful that world-class institutions like Jefferson, a leader in the healthcare industry, call our city home,” the Mayor stated. “This new 19-story facility will provide the best possible individualized care, emergent with the latest technologies and elegant design to meet the needs of Jefferson’s patients.”
“We know now, more than ever, that creating a thriving city truly depends on the health of all of our communities,” the Mayor continued, and emphasized why it is important that Jefferson “re-imagining healthcare and prioritizes access, inclusive design, and health equity right here on East Market Street.”
“This facility will not only provide exceptional care, but will also provide a significant economic impact and aid the continuing transformation of East Market Street. It’s a win-win-win for our city and all of its residents.”
Dwight E. Evans, Congressman, member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional district
Emphasizing the significance of the event was its attendance by Dwight Evans, the Congressman that represents Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional district in the US House of Representatives. The Congressman noted that “he construction of the Specialty Pavilion will have a significant economic impact not just to the city, but to the Commonwealth and the nation,” and went on to thank the construction workers, who, by completing the Specialty Pavilion, “will be uniquely able to meet the needs of today’s patients.”
Derek S. Green, Councilmember At-Large at the Philadelphia City Council
Following Congressman Evans spoke a more locally-based political figure, namely Derek Green, a member of the Philadelphia City Council. Green praised the “bold leadership of Jefferson over the past number of years,” which are “driving so many things in the city.” Green also underscored the central location of the Jefferson campus, noting that having the Specialty Pavilion in the center of Philadelphia represents that “despite challenges, having this type of bold leadership is emblematic of what the city is and what it can be in the future.”
Jeffrey Kanne, President and CEO of National Real Estate Advisers and CEO of NRE Development
While many speakers emphasized Specialty Pavilion’s future impact on the city, Jeffrey Kanne, President and CEO of NRE Advisers and NRE Development, was a speaker perfectly poised to elaborate on how the project came to fruition in the first place.
“When we bought this site more than ten years ago, we had some vague visions of what we were going to try to do with it,” Kanne shared. “The one thing we thought for sure was to attract Jefferson here, and that this should be their front door.” Kianne spoke of how he wrote several letters over the years courting Jefferson, and eventually Jefferson responded positively.
Kanne called the topping-out an “extraordinary milestone” for an “extraordinarily complex project.” Kanne stated that even though the structure “may not look that complex just sitting there, getting it done on time and under budget is an extraordinary testament to the competence of Jefferson and our team at National.”
Kanne emphasized the positive impact of the project’s immediate impact on the Market East neighborhood. “It’s going to transform this side of the city,” Kanne said of the building and the adjacent green space to the west, which will rise atop the block-spanning, multi-level underground garage. Kanne noted that the park “is really going to bring some vibrancy to this part of town” and that he and his team “couldn’t be more proud” of both the development and the partnership that made it possible.
William McDowell, Senior Director of Development, National Real Estate Development
Bill McDowell, Senior Director of Development at NRE Development, struck a similar tone to Kanne, who spoke before him, as he also recalled his experience of the project’s early days. “I recall when we started the conversation with Jefferson, the Art Deco garage was still standing at the site and the Stephen Girard Building has not yet been converted to a hotel,” McDowell said in reference to the previous phase of development at East Market, which YIMBY covered in an extensive feature.
“Plans were drawn up, a 65-foot-deep hole was dug, and streets were shut down for eight weeks in a row to allow for convoys of cement trucks, McDowell continued. “A ‘historic’ amount of concrete has been poured, and a steel frame flew up to where we are today, culminating with the last steel beam to be lifted in the air.”
“It’s a cliché, but our project is the epitome of teamwork,” McDowell stated. “I have to mention what you have to look forward to. The next stage is a remarkable building design. For people like me, this is what we do, this is what we live for, and we’re happy to show it off today.” McDowell concluded that “There’s an added motivation with this project, and that is the importance of healthcare institutions, especially in these times.”
Richard Haverstick, Interim President of Thomas Jefferson University and Interim CEO of Jefferson Health
Richard Haverstick, Interim President of Thomas Jefferson University and Interim CEO of Jefferson Health, described the event as a “celebration of our community.” Haverstick noted that “it has been a privilege to be a part of this project, which has been a collaboration of outstanding thinkers, dreamers, doers, givers, funders, leaders, and cheerleaders.”
Haverstick underscored the scale of Jefferson as a $9 billion organization with 18 hospitals, two university campuses, global academic partnerships, and numerous community-based care centers in two states, and went on to thank the “42,000 colleagues at Jefferson for the outstanding work that they and their team does every day to help support the project, work that you do tirelessly and with great skill.”
Clayton Mitchell, Jefferson’s Executive Vice President of Real Estate and Facilities
Clayton Mitchell, Jefferson’s Executive Vice President of Real Estate and Facilities, deferred to his “roots in labor, where, as the Navy Construction Builders, we often say: ‘With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult, we can do; at once impossible, will take a little bit longer’.” Mitchell was referring to the extraordinary difficulty of working on the massive project in a safe and timely manner during these unprecedented times.
“Great partnerships and great teams coming together in probably the most difficult times that I’ve seen, and I’ve done construction projects in the aftermath of on Katrina and overseas in some of the most challenging situations, and yet we’re still on budget and still on time,” Mitchell noted. “You guys are doing the impossible as the building came up in the throes of the pandemic. We represented a hope for the Philadelphia community, and not only did we achieve this hope, but we did it in a very efficient fashion.”
Mitchell struck a bit more of a philosophical note, though balanced with pragmatism, when he opined that “every project has its challenges and its tension, and the issue is if the tension going to be creative or destructive. Here, there is a significant amount of creative tension, which is really important to deliver a project efficiently and effectively. If you have no tension, you’re probably going to bust the budget.”
Mitchell noted the importance of the Specialty Care Pavilion to both Jefferson and the neighborhood when he expressed hope that “as this development rises, it spurs development on down Chestnut [Street], and we can really create place and community here,” referencing the up-and-coming Market East neighborhood. “The pavilion will be the crown jewel of this exciting part of the city and really a key part of our real estate strategy going forth.”
“From a real estate standpoint, the value that this development will add to our academic medical center can’t be quantified,” Mitchell observed. “The quality of the new building reflects the quality of the relationships that have been forged between National Real Estate Development and Jefferson, and I think that’s emblematic of all the relationships that have led us to this point.”
Mitchell reinforced his upbeat message with a Winston Churchill quote, where, as Mitchell quoted the British Prime Minister, “the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, and the optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty,” and opined that the quote “sums up what we’ve been able to do here.”
TJ Hoffmeyer, Director of Portfolio and Assets at National Real Estate Development
TJ Hoffmeyer, Director of Portfolio and Assets at National Real Estate Development, thanked his team partners for the “opportunity and the ongoing support and encouragement provided by the project teams.” “We look forward to a successful construction process and operations for many years to come,” Hoffmeyer noted.
Elizabeth A. Dale, EdD, MPA Executive Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer
Elizabeth Dale, Jefferson’s Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer, thanked the workers and her “frontline colleagues” for “the heroism, the dedication, the commitment to our patients,” which she called “humbling and inspiring.”
Dale went on to summarize the history behind the traditional topping-off ceremony, such as the one taking place at Jefferson, where the American flag decorates one end of the ceremonial top beam and a pine tree sits atop the other. She discussed the ceremony’s roots reaching all the way back to Ancient Egypt, when builders put a tree, a symbol of the duality of life and death, atop the final stones of the Pyramids, and to Scandinavia, where placing a small tree atop the building’s highest point was meant to appease the tree-dwelling spirits whose habitat has been disturbed.
Dale stated that philanthropy has been crucial to the pavilion’s construction. She thanked the 800-odd benefactors that have contributed to the endeavor, who “understand what the Specialty Care Pavilion will mean for the patient experience, and every gift, every philanthropic investment is making that experience possible,” adding that their “legacy will be forever a part of this building.”
Dale concluded her speech with her experience with the construction process, recalling when she climbed down the 60-foot-deep excavated pit in December 2020. “Before it was a large hole, it was a large idea, a big idea, a dream about what the future of healthcare could look like. The beam we are raising and putting in place today is signed with the names of many who’ve had a hand in making our dream come true.”
Gregory Kane, MD
Dr. Greg Kane, alumnus with the Sidney Kimmell Medical College, thanked not only his medical colleagues, but also the construction workers, noting that the “work of their skilled hands will enable the medical staff to provide even more healing for our city, for our region, and for this nation, during a time when we needed healing more than ever.”
Kane praised the building’s design, architecture, and technology, which “will make the patient experience better than ever from arrival to the departure” and will “improve care for our most complex patients.” “This building is a ray of hope, a burst of sunshine for the hard-working medical staff recently faced with a major crisis,” Kane noted and added that he hopes that “hope and optimism will be present in this building.”
Mark Lynch of IBEW Local 98, an electrical workers’ union
While just about every speaker heaped praise on the construction workers, Mark Lynch of IBW Local 98 expressed a more pragmatic sentiment, getting down to brass tacks from the get-go. “I’ll promise I’ll be quick,” Lynch opened his speech. “I can see the ironworkers up there, sitting on the steel, freezing right now, so we’ll get this thing moving.” But before getting the show on the road, Lynch took a quick moment to thank the development partners, noting that he is “proud of being 100 percent union” and that the site employed around 150 electricians.
Lynch commended Hunter Roberts and LF Driscoll for their safety record and observed that “the tower will provide for the medical necessities of the surrounding neighborhoods moving forward.”
Dr. Edmund A. Pribitkin, MD, Chief Physician
Jefferson Health chief physician Dr. Edmund A. Pribitkin described the Specialty Care Pavilion as a “state-of-the-art facility with sunlit healing spaces” and gave his thanks to “all the crews and the people behind the scenes for really helping Jefferson to be bold and to think differently, to do the right thing, and to put people first.”
Dr. Pribitkin noted that “by putting your sweat and your heart into this building, [the construction team] helps Jefferson improve lives.” Dr. Pribitkin also described the Pavilion by quoting Dr. Bruce Meyer, MD, President of Jefferson Health, as a facility that will provide “the care you need, when you need it, and where you want it.”
“Raising that beam in a few moments will literally raise the level of care we provide for our community,” Dr. Pribitkin went on, describing the Specialty Care Pavilion as a “nerve canter that connects our academic core with our hospitals and regional cancer centers.” Addressing Dr. Pribitkin thanked the development team for “helping Jefferson to be bold and to think differently, to do the right thing and to do the people first, by putting your sweat and hearts into this building you help Jefferson to improve lives.”
As the final speaker at the second ceremony, Dr. Pribitkin took on an impromptu construction manager role as he turned to the steel workers and cheerily called out: “Construction dream team, raise that beam!”
With those words, the beam was hoisted onto cables and began its poetic ascent, with classic rock hits playing in the background. The beam gracefully soared past the fluted facade of the lower floors of the tower, past the stacks of construction material on the structure’s mid-levels, above the adjacent East Market buildings, past the bare, not-yet-fireproofed steel beams on the upper levels, above the still-in-assembly floor slabs at the top, and finally above the wavy parapet that suggests the future undulating facade.
The ascent was high enough to prompt the video drone’s “maximum flying altitude reached” warning, which appears to max out at 400 feet, around 35 feet above the building pinnacle. This lofty height afforded views spanning to the Delaware River and Camden, New Jersey, on the other side of the river, making for a breathtaking backdrop to the three ironworkers setting the beam into the steel grid of the main roof level. Precariously perched on exposed, 360-foot-high, beams, chilled by high-altitude winds with only a harness keeping them from danger, the workers nestled the white-painted beam in its place.
Another beam was raised and mounted in the same fashion after the second speech. After the first beam was affixed, the drone panned northward toward the East Market complex and the former Aramark Tower, recently renovated as Jefferson Center. After the second beam raising, the drone panned southward and westward, past the nearly completed Arthaus toward the soaring skyscrapers of the Center City core.
As the speakers at the copping-out ceremony emphasized time and again, the Jefferson Specialty Care Pavilion is a project of utmost significance for the neighborhood, the city, and the greater Philadelphia region as a whole. YIMBY congratulates the team on their milestone and looks forward to further progress on this and other Jefferson projects.