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Despite height concerns, City Council greenlights Penrose-St. Francis hospital proposal on Centennial

       Following the lead of the Colorado Springs Planning Commission, City Council Nov. 24 endorsed a proposal for a large, new Penrose-St. Francis hospital complex on Centennial Boulevard, north of Fillmore Street.
       Although no construction is anticipated for five years or more on the 51-acre site, the council approval means that the regional hospital
During a public hearing Nov. 24, Margaret Sabin, the CEO of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, talks to City Council about the organization's planned hospital project on Centennial Boulevard north of Fillmore Street.
Westside Pioneer photo from Springs TV
organization can “move forward with design and development,” P-SF CEO Margaret Sabin told City Council.
       She framed the overall goal as a question: “How do we support and make sustainable the next 100 years of health care in our community so we create a foundation for our children and our children's children and generations to come?”
       Currently undeveloped, the property is located across Centennial from the Grandview Market Place shopping center.
       The council vote was 7-1 on each of the three requests - a zone change, a master plan amendment and a concept plan. The majority saw the project as a community enhancement, with added site benefits including improved drainage, landslide protections and stabilizing of a property known to have received “undocumented fill” for many years.
       City Councilmember Jill Gaebler, whose district includes the existing Penrose Hospital on Cascade Avenue (on a 20-acre site north of downtown), praised the organization for being a “fabulous neighbor,” despite being surrounded by homes. “On the future site, the residences will be nowhere near as close,” she said.
       Five people who live nearby spoke against the plan. The most frequently stated issue was the planned height of the main hospital structure, which, under the new zoning, could be up to 200 feet high (although 140 feet will be the probable maximum, a hospital spokesperson has previously said). Two other buildings are envisioned at 65 feet.
       One citizen, Tad Foster, who lives on Mesa Road but said he can see the site from the back of his property, alleged that allowing
A slide, presented to City Council, lists the main reasons Penrose-St. Francis decided to build a new hospital on Centennial Boulevard north of Fillmore Street.
Westside Pioneer photo from Springs TV
200 feet violates the city's Comprehensive Plan recommendation to “protect and enhance the mountain backdrop.”
       City Councilmember Bill Murray - the sole negative vote - added his concern that the approval would set a bad precedent, in that the maximum height allowed elsewhere in the Centennial/Fillmore area is 45 feet.
       Disagreeing was City Planning Director Peter Wysocki, who said the 200-foot allowance applies to the hospital only, based on its new, “site-specific” planned unit development (PUD) zone.
       Also, in answer to Murray's complaint that the recently built three-story VA Clinic southeast of Fillmore and Centennial didn't get the same building-height opportunity, Wysocki pointed out that the VA developers “didn't seek it.”
       The P-SF project is planned in the district of City Councilmember Don Knight, who noted that looking east from his north-of-Westside residence he can see the Memorial Hospital on Powers Boulevard. “Is that an eyesore?” he asked. “It's in the eye of the beholder.”
       He also observed that the “backdrop of the city emblem is a skyscraper in front of the mountain [Pikes Peak].”
       According to councilmembers' discussion, their approval includes a stipulation Planning Commission had inserted in its unanimous October recommendation - that a development plan submittal for any part of the property proposing a building of 65 feet or higher needs to have a public hearing before the commission. Other development plans during the phased process that Penrose-St. Francis anticipates can be administratively approved by City Land Use Review, according to previous city information.
       The complex would become Penrose-St. Francis' third hospital “campus” in Colorado Springs, in addition to the one on Cascade Avenue and another in the Briargate area. The Centennial facility would take over the acute-care responsibility from the North Cascade site, which has no more room to expand, Sabin said.
       It would also expand the organization's service capabilities, in response to a growing population that is expected to need 19 percent more health care by 2023, she said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 11/30/15; Land: Development Proposals)

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