Penrose-St. Francis abandons plan since 2015 to build tall hospital on MesaDec. 3, 2018
When Margaret Sabin, then the CEO and president of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, sought to persuade Colorado Springs City Council in November 2015 to approve a hospital with a 200-foot height allowance on Centennial Boulevard at Fillmore Street, 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
The generational goal has changed.
As evidence, the organization has decided not to build the Westside hospital after all.
The Centennial site was to have been the entity's “third campus” in Colorado Springs. The new plan, based on where the city is growing the most, is to build that campus in an as-yet-undisclosed place in the “northern part of the city,” according to Penrose-St. Francis spokesperson Andrea Sinclair.
The Westside property, which has no uses at present, consists of adjoining tracts of property (51 and 28 acres). The larger parcel is across Centennial from the Grandview Market Place shopping center that includes King Soopers. The 28-acre site was formerly used for an asphalt batch plant.
The location is atop a plateau known as “the Mesa” or “Fillmore Hill,” which was only lightly developed until about 15 years ago.
P-SF had pushed for the Centennial location from 2015 to 2017. The prime reasons given were its proximity to I-25 as well as to the entity's currently tight-for-space North Cascade Avenue hospital, for which the new facility was to provide some relief.
Jamie Smith, the P-SF chief administrative officer, told Planning Commission in 2015 that the Westside proposal followed a “very exhaustive search” for hospital locations and the Centennial site “truly was number 1, 2 and 3 for us. So there are not a lot of other options, as we see it, so we want to do what
Sinclair summarized the present thinking this week, as follows: “While the initial plan to replace Penrose Hospital with a new hospital on the hill was inspirational, it did not address the current market changes that we are experiencing as a health system or the projected growth and development for our region.
“Building a medical campus in the area of projected population growth in our city is strategically stronger and will ensure that Penrose-St. Francis will continue to be our region's leading health care system.”
In pushing for the Westside site, P-SF bought the Centennial/Fillmore acreage, met with local residents and gained approvals from Planning Commission as well as City Council (twice).
The first council approval in 2015 OK'd a hospital complex with support buildings of varying sizes and a 200-foot height allowance on part of the property. The hospital roof would have allowed landings and takeoffs by rescue helicopters.
Council's second approval in 2017 reduced the height limit to 165 feet, after Penrose officials had met with neighborhood groups who were unhappy about the prospect of such tall buildings on top of the Mesa.
Sinclair said the 51-acre parcel has now been sold back to its previous owner, Turtle Creek Grandview Office LLC. Before selling it to the hospital group for $10 million in 2016, the Turtle Creek group had obtained council approval for a rezoning to encourage commercial and office uses along Centennial, facing Grand Market Place. This would have kept the site's old height limit of 45 feet.
The Westside Pioneer asked City Planning Dec. 3 whether the hospital rezoning - which includes the 165-foot height allowance - would carry over to a future project on the 51 acres. An answer has not yet come back.
Purchased a year after the other parcel, the 28 acre property is still owned by P-SF. Asked whether it too will be sold, Sinclair said that effort “is in the works.”
Another local worry with the P-SF development proposal was the stability of the property. A major landslide had occurred about 20 years ago just north of it, and
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is part of Centura Health, which owns 17 hospitals across Colorado and western Kansas. Centura, in turn, is under the nonprofit Catholic Health Initiatives company, based in Englewood, Colorado, which has a presence in 18 states and comprises 104 hospitals, according to its annual report.
Sinclair said the new P-SF strategy will involve a 7 to 10-year plan “to completely modernize” the North Cascade hospital. No details have yet been fleshed out on how that facility's space issues will be dealt with, she noted.
In addition, along with backing away from Centennial/Fillmore and looking north, P-SF will expand its St. Francis Medical Center off Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road and its urgent-care offerings, Sinclair said.
Overall, the organization “is doing a reassessment of what really makes sense as a provider of health care for the whole region,” she summarized. One plus for the public will be bringing on 50 more health providers, she said.
P-SF's estimated price tag for the upcoming benefits/upgrades is $750 million.
Asked if the entity's changed vision was a result of former President/CEO (and Centennial-site advocate) Margaret Sabin stepping down last March and Dr. Brian Erling taking her place, Sinclair said no. Although agreeing “there's been a change in leadership all across the board,” she emphasized “that's not what caused the change in strategy.”
The stimulus, she said, was people in the organization, “from bottom to top and top to bottom,” wanting to rethink P-SF's future.
Westside Pioneer article