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The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia announced Tuesday a $650 million expansion plan that will vault the acknowledged national leader in pediatrics even higher. With an increased demand for hospital admissions, outpatient care and an ever-fruitful research program, the five-year development program will nearly double the size of CHOP's University City campus. "Our mission is to seek cures for all pediatric disease, and with a mission like that, we cannot rest on our laurels," CHOP President and CEO Steven Altschuler said during the announcement. "We must continue to push the envelope." As part of the project, work started this past February to add 10 floors to the existing Abrahamson Pediatric Research Building. In June, construction will start on a new 10-story South Tower, which will connect to the main CHOP building and supply additional bed space. Early next year, another 11-story tower housing laboratories and additional operating rooms will begin to take shape. By the summer of 2002, ground will be broken for a new structure across from the CHOP campus on the Civic Center site, providing space for ambulatory care and clinical research. And bucking the trend of bland institutional architecture, a new facade in the form of a colored glass mural will wrap the existing CHOP building, something that Altschuler promises will be a "true architectural landmark for the city." CHOP's expansion plan is the latest in a series of building projects slated to occur in the city, which include new stadiums for the Eagles and Phillies and a recently announced plan to construct a 50-story downtown office tower. Mayor John Street, who attended CHOP's unveiling, thought that these developments bode well for a revitalized Philadelphia. "We believe that we are a world class place, and... there are so many world class things that are happening in our city that give us all cause to be optimistic," Street said. Although the project will be a boon to the city's economy, providing 600 new construction jobs and 1,000 new health-care jobs, Street reminded the audience at the unveiling that the real cause for celebration is the chance to save more lives. "Children's Hospital saved the life of my baby," Street said, telling of the time nearly 21 years ago when his newborn son Lateef suddenly became ill and was rushed to CHOP from another hospital. "The best thing that I can say about the announcement here today is the best care possible anywhere in the world is available to us parents right here in West Philadelphia," the mayor said. Health care experts were united in their praise of CHOP's plans. "I think that this actually will be a tremendous boost to the Philadelphia area's overall efforts to become a global center for the life sciences and healthcare," said Andrew Wigglesworth, president of the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council. The expansion will be paid for privately out of the hospital's profits, a fundraising campaign and through the issuance of bonds. CHOP will not rely on any public tax subsidies. According to Robert Field, director of the health policy program at the University of the Sciences, a competitive health care industry demands better facilities. "For hospitals, the number and size of their buildings reflects their stature," Field said. "The buildings are almost monuments to the hospitals." However, Altschuler denied that the new project was an effort to compete with the Boston Children's Hospital, another preeminent pediatric facility. "I don't think there is any rivalry because I think we're better," he said.

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