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Penn is evaluating plans to clear much of the area for a new cancer center. Wrecking balls will be swinging onto the southeastern end of campus before the year is over. The University is currently in the process of evaluating bids to demolish parts of the expansive Civic Center at 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard, part of which Penn purchased from the city last year. The demolition will clear the way for an expected $450 million development project, backed by both Penn and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, that will include a consolidated Penn cancer research and treatment center and a 2.2-acre parking garage. Jack Shannon, the University's top economic official, said the project to take down Center Hall and Exhibition Hall will begin before the year's end, adding that the University is currently reviewing the bids and finalizing legal arrangements with the city. And although the University of Pennsylvania Health System has been hemorrhaging money, the University Board of Trustees approved a $13.5 million initial expenditure for demolition and related costs. The demolition project should take about 10 months to complete, Shannon said. "This is not typical demolition," he explained, adding that the work must be done carefully so as not to damage the other halls -- like the famed Convention Hall, where the Beatles played in 1964 and several presidential nominating conventions were held in the 1930s and 1940s. But the Health System's ongoing financial crisis -- which included a $198 million deficit in the most recent fiscal year -- means the costs may be to much for Penn to handle alone. Health System spokesperson Lori Doyle said that due to its current financial status, UPHS will seek outside developers to work on the project. "[It's] more important to identify outside financing? We can't fund this solely through Health System dollars," she said. Starting the demolition means the University is finally realizing a longtime developmental dream. Penn officials have long coveted the enormous property on the southeastern corner of campus but for years city officials rejected University offers to buy the site. Last December, however, City Council approved a bill securing the site for Penn and CHOP to develop a cancer research center and parking garage. The garage will be the first building erected on the site after the demolition, Shannon said, adding that the University expects it to be finished by July 2001. The garage will ease the parking woes that have recently plagued the University. "It will be an enormous benefit," Executive Vice President John Fry said. "There is a real parking crunch in that area of campus." Meanwhile the plans for the rest of the site are still under discussion, according to officials, with University goals including the development of a cancer center and an ambulatory care center. "We do not have adequate ambulatory care or cancer care facilities at the Health System," Fry said. CHOP is committed to building a medical research office building on their 2.5 acres of the 10.7-acre site. Officials estimate that the cost of developing the entire parcel of land will be about $450 million, with Penn contributing $350 million.

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