By Jim Melican, GSAC Board Member
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At GSAC’s Tuesday, March 14 Board of Directors meeting, Paul Hiltz, President and CEO of the NCH Healthcare System and Jon Kling, Chief Operations Officer, Administration updated the GSAC Board on the status of its proposed Heart, Vascular and Stroke Institute. While the proposed Institute was very much in the public eye about a year ago, the concerns and objections raised by some members of the community who live nearby resulted in several contentious City Council sessions. However, it would seem that those concerns have now been addressed by an addition to the City’s Land Development Code, as well as by multiple design modifications NCH has made in the proposed structures. The next step is an important public hearing before the City’s Design Review Board (DRB) on Wednesday, April 26 for preliminary design review. The detailed plans and architectural renderings will be posted on the City’s website prior to that meeting. GSAC would urge that those residents who are interested in ensuring that the project moves forward expeditiously attend that hearing and make their views known.

As a reminder, the proposed new building that would replace the existing Telford building fronting on 7th St. North just north of 2nd Ave North would now be the same height as the existing Baker Hospital. Last September the City Council passed an ordinance amending the City’s Land Development Code by adding a provision to its existing definition of a Public Service District providing that the City Council has express authorization to approve a community hospital as a conditional use in such a District. A structure within that District would not necessarily be required to adhere to the otherwise applicable height limitations. Assuming that the proposed design for the project – which includes the Institute itself as well as a 31-foot, four-level parking structure on part of the surface level parking area across the street between 7th St. North and 6th Street North – that will be presented to the DRB is approved, the next steps will be to first bring the project to the City’s Planning Advisory Board (PAB) for its review. The PAB will be charged with recommending to the City Council whether the project fits within the parameters of the new ordinance. However, the City Council has reserved to itself final review and approval authority for site plans within the Public Service District. Such approval would require two separate “readings,” which hopefully will take place before the Council recesses for the summer.

If all goes well – and obviously City Council approval of the conditional use will be the most critical step – NCH’s current expectation is that it should have final approval of the design and site plans by the end of the year. It would then apply for the necessary permits so that demolition of the existing Telford building could begin.

Mr. Hiltz informed the GSAC Board that some $200 million in private contributions for the project had already been secured, highlighted by a proposed gift of $20 million from former Congressman Francis Rooney, for whom the Institute will be named. Although additional funds to complete the entire project will still be needed, NCH is optimistic that they can be obtained in a timely manner, since the projected construction costs are increasing every quarter.