Cherry Hill was still called Delaware Township when plans for a "complete modern general hospital" at Chapel Avenue and Cooper Landing Road were announced in the late 1950s.

Long since acquired and expanded by Kennedy Health, the community hospital that opened in 1961 is being transformed by a $250 million construction project and a pending merger with Philadelphia's Jefferson Health.

"There will be a total rebranding of this campus," says Joseph W. Devine, president and CEO of Kennedy Health.

Planning for the project predates the merger and "has been a long time coming," he says, adding, "For us, it will be a real statement."

Indeed, with new hospitals rising in nearby suburbs and urban health systems like Lourdes and Penn opening stylish new outpatient facilities on Route 70 in Cherry Hill, Kennedy's utilitarian complex on the township's west side was overdue for a reboot.

Successive Cherry Hill mayors "would ask me, 'So when are you going to do Cherry Hill?' " Devine, a three-decade Kennedy management veteran, recalls.

"The new campus will fit in with this community," he adds. "It will be truly Cherry Hill-worthy."

Says Mayor Chuck Cahn: "We're very excited about it. The investment is tremendous, and [the new Kennedy] will be a marquee facility."

On a recent blustery morning, Devine and I are among a half-dozen people donning white hard hats and fluorescent green vests for a site tour.

Work on the first phase - a seven-story parking garage, a 100,000-square-foot medical office building, a dramatic lobby and entrance featuring panels of Italian stone - began in September 2015.

The job "is about 70 percent complete," says Ryan Spotts, senior project manager for the Norwood Co., the Malvern firm overseeing the work.

What's being done is not only cosmetic; Kennedy is connecting new buildings to existing structures, some of which are being renovated.

This is being accomplished on an already busy medical complex (nearly 200 patient beds and 1,200 employees), next door to Cherry Hill West High School, and within a densely developed section of the township.

Relocation of utility poles also meant relocating a portion of the eruv - an enclosure that accommodates the needs of Orthodox Jews.

"We are nothing but grateful and appreciative to Kennedy for helping us maintain our Sabbath observance," says Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, of the nearby Congregation Sons of Israel.

Devine expects New Jersey regulators will sign off on the merger by mid-2017.

"With Kennedy as a major hub of Jefferson, we will be a major part of the fabric" of health care in South Jersey, says Stephen K. Klasko, president and CEO of Jefferson Health.

"A lot of things that Kennedy has done have been best in class," Klasko adds. "This merger would not happen if Kennedy hadn't gone so far."

Although the Kennedy name will be retained in some form, and the mid-1960s patient tower will be renovated to provide private rooms, one signature component of the Cherry Hill campus will not survive.

That would be the current medical office building, which is near Chapel Avenue but might be more at home on a Mad Men set.

Devine notes that this hexagonal, space-age structure was designed by a Floridian whose specialty was graphics, not architecture.

"We're creating a new image, with natural light coming inside and a more open, healing environment," Lisa Dutterer, Kennedy's chief administrative officer, says.

"That existing medical office building is not very welcoming. It does not provide easy access or convenience for patients," she adds.

"And it's dark in there."

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