Hospital proposal raises concerns in Englewood

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Increased traffic on residential streets and parking problems if the 3400 block of South Clarkson is closed were the major concerns area residents raised at the Aug. 25 neighborhood meeting about Craig Hospital’s proposed expansion.

During the meeting, Craig officials said the tentative timetable is to try to complete the planning process, which will require city council approval, so construction can begin in early 2013.

Alan White, city community development director, said when Craig submits the proposal to the city, it will first be reviewed by the planning and zoning commission. Then, it will be sent, with recommendations, to the city council. Tentative plans are for the city council to hold a public hearing on the project as part of the process.

The Aug. 25 discussion, most of it devoted to answering questions, lasted about an hour. At the conclusion, Craig president Mike Fordyce thanked the neighbors for coming. He said Craig and the development staff listened to the comments and will review the plans to see if concerns can be addressed.

Fordyce opened the meeting by explaining the proposal. He said Craig would like to do a $90 million project to expand the hospital facilities. The expansion would only add four beds to the hospital capacity but would make it possible for every patient to have a private room instead of being two to three in a room as they are today.

Fordyce said the proposal includes a request to the city to close the 3400 block of South Clarkson Street. He said the street closure would unite the campus and make it safer for patients, families and staff members moving between the east and west buildings.

He said closing Clarkson would allow the hospital to erase the elevation difference between the east and west buildings. Fordyce said plans are to build a public park on a portion of the street and to create an easily accessible main entrance that doesn’t exist now. The plan would address another goal by helping the hospital prepare for a large expansion of outpatient services.

About 35 residents attended the meeting and were provided an opportunity to make comments about the project. Many asked about traffic flow on Clarkson.

Jeff Green, hired by the Craig proposal to do a traffic study, said an average of 647 vehicles pass the top of the hill in the 3400 block of Clarkson during peak hours. He said an average of 153 patients, family members or staff members cross Clarkson during that same period.

Another issue raised was parking in residential neighborhoods

“When Craig built the east campus, hospital officials visited with us and told us we wouldn’t see any impact on Emerson where I live,” resident Dennis Daniel said. “That isn’t true. Every day we have staff and vendors parking on Emerson to the point it is hard to park by our home. I want to see a permit parking system on our street.”

Later, Daniel said he strongly opposes closing Clarkson because it will move cars onto residential streets. He added that closing a main thoroughfare doesn’t make sense to him.

Another resident suggested that, instead of closing Clarkson, a mid-block light be installed that is triggered by pedestrians wanting to cross the street. Craig officials said they would discuss the possibility with the city.

Bob Talbert, an area resident, said closing Clarkson will require rerouting traffic onto residential streets.

“Clarkson and Logan are the only north-south routes,” he said. “Broadway certainly isn’t an option because of the traffic and the lights. Closing Clarkson Street doesn’t make sense.”

Area resident Geoff Walker said he had heard Swedish also plans an expansion.

“I know Craig wants to expand its facilities,” he said. “However, I wonder if alternative designs have been considered.”

Randy Thorne, project architect, said the team has looked at 15 different plans but the one under consideration made the most sense financially and for the physical layout of the campus.