The Boise City Council closed an eight-hour public hearing just after 1 a.m. Wednesday but did not vote on the reason for that hearing — a proposed expansion of St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center’s Downtown campus.
The council scheduled deliberation on the proposal and a possible vote for July 7.
More than 400 people showed up at City Hall on Tuesday to tell council members what they thought of the St. Luke’s plan. Dozens testified. The council started the meeting an hour earlier than its typical 6 p.m. time slot due to the outsize public interest in this topic.
Many of the people who spoke in favor of the proposal are St. Luke’s employees.
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People who live in the neighborhoods that surround Downtown Boise, especially the East End Neighborhood directly to east of the hospital campus, generally spoke against the St. Luke’s proposal. Their most common objection was the hospital’s request to close the section of Jefferson Street between Avenue B and 1st Street.
St. Luke’s wants to build a nine-story building on top of that space. The first five stories on the south side of this new building would connect to the north side of the hospital's existing main building. The top four floors would be set back from the building's first tier like the upper portion of a wedding cake. They would have narrower connections to the surrounding buildings.
St. Luke’s claims that building is necessary for a new, horizontally integrated hospital layout it says will improve treatment of all kinds of ailments and injuries by making it easier and faster to move patients between departments that specialize in different types of treatments.
But opponents fear the loss of Jefferson Street because it’s a major connection between Downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. They don’t buy the St. Luke’s prediction that a bicycle track surrounding the campus and a bicycle-pedestrian path through the heart of the campus will more than make up for the loss of the Jefferson Street connection.
Opponents also worry about increased traffic on Avenue B on the east side of the campus will create a wall of cars on Avenue B that makes crossing the road dangerous and difficult, while causing backups of car traffic while those crossings are taking place.
Recent months have seen intense discussion of St. Luke’s proposal. Besides several open house-style meetings with neighbors, the City Council held two workshops on the plan. St. Luke’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Roth said Tuesday that feedback and opposition resulted in a better plan.