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$50M gift from the Honickman family to Jefferson University Hospital
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$50M gift from the Honickman family to Jefferson University Hospital

Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital will receive $50 million from the Honickman family to help pay for a new specialty care building under construction in Center City, the nonprofit health system announced Tuesday.

The gift is among the largest Jefferson has received.

Hospital officials and the Honickmans said they hope that the building, to be called the Honickman Center, will improve Jefferson’s currently scattered downtown medical campus by consolidating dispersed services into one building.

“Making the patient’s experience a lot easier is something we thought was quite important,” said Harold Honickman, chairman of the Honickman Group of soft-drink bottling and distribution companies, a Pennsauken company he launched in 1957.

The Honickman Center, a 19-story building at the corner of 11th and Chestnut Streets, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2024. It will include more than 300 exam rooms, 10 operating rooms, six endoscopy rooms, a pharmacy, and 58 infusion chairs for people undergoing chemotherapy and other infusion treatments. A parking garage will occupy three levels underground.

Jefferson announced plans to consolidate 14 of its specialty practices in a new tower two years ago, near the end of previous chief executive Stephen K. Klasko’s expansion run, which grew Jefferson from three hospitals in 2014 to 18 now, including two rehabilitation hospitals and two joint-venture surgical hospitals.

Jefferson, which also acquired Philadelphia University and Health Partner’s Plans Inc., a nonprofit Medicaid and Medicare insurer, had an operating loss of $125 million on $8 billion in revenue in the year ended June 30. Klasko retired at the end of last year.

The official price tag for the new building is a pricey $762 million, but it’s not entirely clear what that includes. Jefferson said two years ago that construction costs were expected to be about $1,000 per square foot, which works out to $462 million.

Physician Joseph Cacchione, the health system’s new CEO, said that patients often have to travel between buildings in Jefferson’s Center City campus. The new building, he said, “puts everything in a one-stop shop in an integrated way.”

Cacchione said the new building will help populate the downtown area even as the aftereffects of the pandemic have thinned out foot traffic and office workers around Market East.

In 2019, Jefferson announced that philanthropist Sidney Kimmel planned to donate $70 million to help pay for a $340 million biomedical research building on the northwest corner of the intersection of Ninth and Locust Streets. That building is to be named for Kimmel’s wife, Caroline Kimmel.

After Kimmel donated $110 million to Jefferson in 2014, its medical school was named after him.

This will be the Honickman family’s largest donation ever, the family said, and they hope it will have a generational impact. Lynne and Harold Honickman, along with their children, Marjorie and Jeffrey Honickman and Shirley and Richard Hahn, are longtime supporters of the hospital, funding a breast imaging center and launching Jefferson’s annual gala.

The family’s fortune comes from the soda-bottling industry; their nonprofit, the Honickman Foundation, supports various Philadelphia-area organizations including Project HOME and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

Jeff Honickman said the family was excited to help improve patients’ experience at Jefferson. His mother-in-law, who was treated for cancer at the hospital years ago, spoke often with fellow patients about how taxing it could be traveling between buildings for care.

“This gift to Jefferson, we believe, is going to transform the patient experience,” he said. “As a family, we’re really proud to play a role in it.”

Photo: Jeffrey A. Honickman

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