Swedish Medical Center will move forward with plans to double the size of its Cherry Hill campus. No date for construction is set; Swedish officials have to reduce traffic before it can begin.
Swedish Medical Center got the go-ahead Monday to double the size of its Cherry Hill campus, a move long opposed by some neighbors worried about the bulk and scale of the project.
Seattle City Council members quickly and unanimously approved the expansion, sealing the deal first proposed in 2011. It will increase the size of the medical center from 1.2 million square feet to about 2.6 million square feet to house expanded medical, research, hotel and support space.
Swedish officials, who submitted a dozen versions of the master plan over the past nearly five years, said the expansion is necessary to allow growth for the next three decades. The Cherry Hill campus serves about 380,000 patients a year now, a figure expected to increase by up to 50 percentin coming years.
“The new master plan represents a 30-year vision for the future of the Swedish Cherry Hill campus that will allow Swedish to continue providing family medicine and emergency services to patients of all ages, while also treating the most complex cardiovascular and neurological diseases,” June Altaras, Swedish Seattle chief executive, said in a statement.
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Under the plan, the medical center will increase gradually the number of beds available, from 225 now to the 385 beds the medical center is certified for under its state-issued certificate of need.
Some neighbors objected to the proposal during more than three dozen citizens’ advisory committee meetings held during the past four years. Their input led city officials to pare some of the proposed height and reach of the expansion. But Dean Paton, 62, a committee member who has lived on 16th Avenue for nearly 25 years, said he and others are disappointed at the final outcome.
“It doesn’t do what the master plan calls for, which is to balance the needs of the institution with the vitality and livability of the neighborhood,” Paton said.
The expansion will exacerbate traffic gridlock and block views for Paton and others, he noted.
The Cherry Hill campus, the site of the former Providence Hospital, is located east of the Seattle University campus in what’s known as the Squire Park neighborhood.
Swedish Health Services owns 60 percent of the site, but the rest is owned by Sabey Corp., a Tukwila-based data-center company. Swedish sold the property to Sabey and now leases back much of it.
Paton and other neighbors contended that if Swedish had kept the property, it wouldn’t have required such a large expansion.
Construction won’t begin any time soon, said Andy Cosentino, vice president of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.
Before any building permit is issued, Swedish must address the traffic it generates. The medical center has a single-occupancy-vehicle rate of 57 percent now, a figure it must reduce to 50 percent before construction begins, and to 32 percent by the end of the project in 30 years.
That’s a tough target for the medical center, which now has about 1,300 employees and expects 1,000 more with the expansion.
A survey of Swedish traffic habits is under way, and medical-center officials will consider next steps once it’s complete, Cosentino said.
“We are just trying to catch our breath now after a very long process,” he said.