Do you have ideas on how best to adapt and re-use the Pennhurst campus? Please share them with us
Above: an artist's depiction of the restored Pennhurst campus - complete with a monument to the triumph of disabled persons at Pennhurst.
Responding to threats of demolition both by action and neglect, our organization proposes that the site, once a place of pain, be transformed into an international center of understanding and conscience. A memorial, interpretive center, university-based research institute, and conference center will exist within community recreational space. New uses—and the restoration itself—will be restorative and redemptive not only for the people who suffered here, but also an innovative economic opportunity for the region as a whole. Companies owned by or employing those with disabilities will be given preference both in the restoration effort and in all activities related to the site’s future uses.
Our hope is to re-develop the site as a green campus, meeting LEED standards to the fullest extent possible and preserving as much open space as is economically feasible. We envision a multi-use option for structures not used for the museum designed around transit-oriented development principles and incorporating a park-and-ride facility, perhaps located within adaptively-reused historic structures. A historic bridge over the Schuylkill River connects the campus to the Royersford Train Station on the much-anticipated R-6 rail line extension. Additionally, a rest stop along the Schuylkill River Trail skirting the Pennhurst property could be located on the site of the former Pennhurst Train Station or in the existing Power House. Such a rest stop would be well-located between the Valley Forge and Pottstown stops along the trail.
Not only has initial research indicated the plan is viable, public response has been touted it as unique, inspiring, and in the words of one national preservation advocate, "groundbreaking."
To be sure, Pennhurst's re-development will present a tremendous challenge. But it will also offer tremendous return. An international center of conscience at Pennhurst will likely focus significant private and public investment on the campus, with resulting long-term economic benefits to the surrounding communities and the region. Additionally, restoration of the site will provide thousands of well-paying jobs.