This was a running blog from Tuesday evening of St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center’s proposed $400 million expansion of its Downtown campus. Here’s a deeper look at that proposal.
The newest updates are closest to the top, so scroll down if you want to see older information.
This meeting format – the city’s calling it a workshop – has been fairly rare, but you might see more of it when big, complicated topics like this one come up in the future for reasons I touched on here.
Quick note: I don’t have the names of everybody on the St. Luke’s team, and Mayor David Bieter isn’t harping on the standard Roberts rules of order, so I’ll refer to them collectively as “St. Luke’s.”
The public hearing on the St. Luke’s expansion is set for June 30. Council voted 3-1 in favor. Elaine Clegg voted against it. Ben Quintana and Lauren McLean are absent.
Maryanne Jordan, City Council president, said she’s satisfied with the amount of information she’s picked up in the past two workshop sessions. She’s proposing a public hearing – at which a council vote on the proposal could happen – for June 30.
Elaine Clegg said she still has some questions on the proposal.
St. Luke’s: The hospital system will begin moving its regional center to Meridian if its Downtown Boise expansion is rejected. But the Downtown hospital will still be in operation, though in a reduced capacity.
A fair amount of tonight’s discussion has been on the topic of getting people across Avenue B. As with the mitigation of the Jefferson closure, St. Luke’s seems to be taking a multi-pronged approach to this issue. They’re talking about things like timing the pedestrian-bicycle crossing at Bannock Street so as not to cause traffic backups by stopping cars at that signal every time someone pushes a button to cross.
City Council members are worried that traffic going by the hospital’s east side on Avenue B will cause an intractable dilemma: First, car traffic that’s too heavy for pedestrians – especially families – to cross safely without a few signals, and second, gridlock on the road if those signals get as much use as the expanded hospital could generate.
We’re getting into another Q&A session. Not surprisingly, people have lots of questions about traffic.
St. Luke’s: The bike-riding convenience isn’t great around St. Luke’s campus right now. This suite of enhancements the hospital is proposing will make the whole area better for bicyclists. In fact, this could be a way of introducing and testing new types of bike lanes and other facilities.
St. Luke’s is going over traffic enhancements besides the bike pathways that would happen in conjunction with its proposed expansion. Those include three roundabouts north of the St. Luke’s campus. The hospital would front the money for some of those improvements, which would include some intersection realignment.
Councilwomen Elaine Clegg and Lauren McLean want to make sure St. Luke’s makes the bike path around its Downtown campus safely accessible to bikes.
St. Luke’s: We’re open to an altered traffic plan.
St. Luke’s is going over traffic impacts of its proposed expansion now. Here’s a link to a study an engineering firm did on those impacts.
Deanna Smith, representing the East End Neighborhood Association, said she’s worried that the St. Luke’s expansion would negatively impact here neighborhood. City Council President Maryanne Jordan said the city understands the decision on St. Luke’s could lead to some negative results in addition to positive ones.
“This is too big a project to ever be looked at that way,” Jordan said.
Elaine Clegg, City Council: Would St. Luke’s consider reopening the eastern-most block or so of Bannock Street, turning it into a street that perhaps accommodates cars, but is really designed for walking, biking etc., to make up for the loss of the analagous section of Jefferson?
St. Luke’s: We’ll get into that a later tonight.
City Councilwoman Elaine Clegg said she’s concerned that the campus design St. Luke’s is proposing doesn’t integrate it with the surrounding neighborhood, which is an important aspect of the planning principles Boise embraces. In fact, Clegg said the design seems to isolate the campus from its surroundings, almost like there’s “a moat around it.”
St. Luke’s: The hospital’s designers will work on those design aspects in greater detail during the city’s design review process.
First round of public questions over. To summarize, St. Luke’s has restated its belief that expanding its main building on the Downtown campus to the north (closing off a section of Jefferson Street) is necessary to providing the integrated model of service it believes in. Expanding to the south, east or west wouldn’t work because it would compromise service or because it would be too expensive.
To offset the loss of Jefferson between Avenue B and 1st Street, the hospital says it will build a new two-way bicycle track around the campus and a 10-foot, lower speed path through the heart of it.
Q: How much market share will St. Luke’s lose if its proposal is denied?
Mayor Bieter: That question isn’t in the scope of tonight’s hearing.
Q: Why weren’t neighborhoods besides North End and East End invited to tonight’s meeting?
Hal Simmons, city of Boise: People from all neighborhoods will have a chance to comment at a public hearing.
Maryanne Jordan, City Council: The city has also received hundreds of written comments from all over the county.
Q: Why won’t St. Luke’s compromise?
St. Luke’s: The person who asked that question wouldn’t want compromised care if he or she were in the hospital.
Q: Why not expand St. Luke’s satellite facilities in Meridian, Nampa, etc., instead of Downtown Boise?
St. Luke’s: We are expanding all medical facilities.
Next question: Why can’t St. Luke’s bridge Jefferson Street instead of closing the section between Avenue B and 1st St.?
St. Luke’s: The hospital wants to move to an integrated model of care, which makes providing a variety of treatments quicker, and the real estate on that section of the street is necessary to that model. The emergency would stay on the first floor, but having to take a patient from the ER up and down elevators and across a sky bridge to, say, radiology would be “unacceptable.”
This has been St. Luke’s biggest point overall: that expanding east, west or south (which wouldn’t require closing Jefferson) would compromise their desired care model or would cost too much money.
First question from the public: What all opportunities will opponents of St. Luke’s proposal get to comment on it? Mayor David Bieter walks through the rules that govern public hearings, which the city will have to hold if St. Luke’s continues to pursue the project.
In answering the next question, Hal Simmons said the city has received an unprecedented amount of correspondence on this project, and the city staff reads all of it.
Deanna Smith of the East End Neighborhood Association asked why the city didn’t get to work on the St. Luke’s master plan in 2009 when it found out that St. Luke’s was eyeing an expansion. City Planning Director Hal Simmons answered that a lot of factors played into that delay: the hospital backed off on the project when the economy tanked, the city’s planning staff was pretty minimal, and the city hadn’t really developed its master plan process as it exists now.
Big crowd here – maybe 60 or 70 – but not as many as city staffers expected. They set out several dozen chairs for an overflow crowd in the City Council’s chambers.
Just reviewing the project and relevant city laws so far. Besides the St. Luke’s team, representatives of the East End, North End and Downtown Boise neighborhood associations, as well as the Downtown Boise Association, are at the table with Mayor David Bieter and City Council members.